We all know on some level in our heads that life as we know it can change in an instant, but we act as though we ourselves, and those we love are invincible--and we choose to believe it.
We don't really believe that our parents will ever grow old, or become vulnerable--or dependent. They were the ones who were so big and strong in our eyes as children and they were supposed to look after us.
I remember the shock when I first noticed my parents aging and realized that they whom I had needed, needed me.
And now, as relentlessly as the increasingly chill winds of oncoming winter gradually stripped bare the trees of their golden leafed glory, what only happened to other people was happening to us.
One October evening in 2003, just after Mum's stroke, I was playing Beatles music in my kitchen while cooking a stir fry, and the music reminded me vividly of our last years together as a family in the 1960's. I found myself mourning the loss of both of my parents. It was a process I had to go through, even for Mum, who was still alive. We had hope, but we didn't know how much of Mum would "come back." I felt a tremendous sense of loss.
Just a year ago, when I had gone to England in October, to spend three weeks with Mum and Dad in their house on Snake Lane in Alvechurch, I had worked through so much, emotionally and spiritually. I let go of my judgement of Dad, and was able to accept him as he was, and just love him.
I left them living as they had for years together, not knowing that the next time I saw Dad, just over two months later, he would be in hospital and dying.
And now the house on Snake Lane stood lonely and empty except for Sam the cat.
One thing I realized at that time was although the person you knew before seemed to be gone, you just loved the person who they were right now. It was a relief to let go of what was, and might never be again, but be grateful, and love Mum, with all of my heart, exactly as she was now.
Rob and I spoke by telephone almost every night after his visits to Mum. It was tiring for him, after a day at work to spend time every day at the hospital, but he did, faithfully, reporting back to me every evening, how Mum was.
I began to make plans at the beginning of November to go to England. I told Rob I would be there on November 10th and come for two weeks; it was the most that I thought I could manage away from home and work.
Rob slowly and carefully asked if I could stretch it to three weeks. I knew that he thought Mum was dying, even though there were occasional flashes of hope and people were telling us encouraging stories.
I planned to talk more to Rob about it and knew that God would guide me surely.
The next time I talked to Rob, he had told Mum that I was planning to come to England. He told me that without any prompting she had said, "No." Then she said, "Not yet." Although she couldn't explain why, I guessed that she wanted to try to be better than she was before I came.
I decided to put my plans to leave for England on hold temporarily, and wait until I could be of the most use and support to Mum and Rob.
Meanwhile Mum was moved from the hospital in Redditch, to another hospital in Bromsgrove, for rehabilitation. She was happy and laughing and said that she had been thinking a lot about her cat. That was such a good sign and we clung on to such things!
To be continued...