Dad had told me to prepare myself.
He had told me that last time I saw my Mum in November … I had tried to imagine her decline but facing the reality was just far worse than anything my imagination could visualise.
This time I tried a different tactic.
I have been listening to and reading ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle. I have to do both because some of it makes my brain hurt… and it is slow progress as I have to listen or read parts of it multiple times to understand it and then also learn how to put it into practice.
On the drive down to Buckinghamshire, I was listening to him explain the concept of Life and the Life Situation.
My interpretation and the way I understood how to apply it to my situation was that I needed to live in the ‘now’, the present moment… to live in ‘Life’… the part of life where I breathe in and out while focussing on my immediate surroundings.. Not living in the past and thinking how my Mum was in the hospital with her greasy hair and her stumbling, failing walk nor the future of trying to imagine how she would be; not thinking how desperately sad I felt back in November, nor trying to anticipate the feelings of how I would feel when I saw her again. That is my Life Situation …
If I live in my Life Situation in my mind, I feel pain, nerves, anxiety, anger, worry… How will I feel, how will I react? I have no control over those things until the moment I see her. Why use and waste energy worrying and trying to predict?
So I chose to live in the moment and every single moment until I saw my Mum.
I had a wonderful evening with my Dad, relaxed, precious moments.
I slept deeply.
I ran. I ran along the ridges in the zero degree, icy cold weather – appreciating nature’s frosty beauty, sadistically enjoying the pain of the cold in my chest and running through the clouds of my breath… turning my face to the sun and living in that moment.
Living in each moment, until the moment I saw her.
On the way home, I have been listening to Eckhart’s calming staccato voice explaining the concept of the ‘Pain Body’. How the unconscious mind can let the Pain Body take over your attitude, thoughts and actions…
The Pain Body is an accumulation of similar feelings we have stored in our minds over time based on similar experiences and related feelings in the past. Underlying each negative emotion of anger, betrayal, sadness is pain. Again, my interpretation of what he is saying is that if you can tune in to your negative feelings and emotions and recognise the Pain Body rising, and consciously appreciate it, you can calm it, face it, deal with it rationally and return to the present moment.
I lived in the present moment when I was with Mum. I was aware of my slight choke and widening eyes as she came into focus as I walked towards her room.
She was asleep. Her jaw slack and mouth open..
She was so thin. Her hands, little, bony, talons, ringless; wrists frail and crooked; her face gaunt, cheeks hollow.
I knelt beside her and took her pale, cold hand in mine and kissed her. She smelt clean and her hair was soft…She is being looked after.
As her eyes fluttered awake, she was confused… As I talked calmly, I noticed that when I said ‘Mummy’, she eventually smiled fleetingly until I say the word again.. ‘Mummy’. Momentary recognition… of what I am not sure, me or that she is a mother?
She kept tight hold of my hand as I perched and wouldn’t let go as I met her carers, who come in to introduce themselves. Robert, Chris and Susan… there are not enough superlatives to describe their positivity, most of all their kindness and generosity of spirit.
They bring us lunch and drinks and while Dad’s plate and mine is recognisable as sweet and sour chicken, rice and veg… Mum’s is multi-coloured pureed blobs.
Between us, Dad and I gently spoon small mouthfuls into her birdlike mouth and we wipe away remnants with the spoon, just as you do a weening child. We hold a cup to her mouth as she sips her juice and dab her chin dry.
Living in the moment, it was an action, a task, talking calmly, holding her gaze as much as I could, saying ‘Mummy’ to bring a smile to her eyes… sharing stories of my boys, showing her a beautiful album that my Dad has assembled of her life. As we turn the pages, we recount the stories of holidays in France as a family, her exotic trips with Dad, how talented she was at sewing, how much she loved Switzerland, the water, and most of all the snow and skiing.
I want to reach inside her mind and ask her if she remembers? I want to reach in and find out if there is anything of Mumbo left… for she holds my hand, but there is no reaction to the stories or photos. She utters no words and barely no sounds….my heart stays strong in the moment.
Living in the moment, as I say goodbye, I held her tight and kissed her cheek and say I love you and my heart cracks just a little as she whispers a response ‘I love you’….
As I walk away down the corridor, I turn back… fatal. I have to go back and hear it again… but the moment is gone… nothing there.
My Pain Body takes about 24 hours to emerge. My Pain Body is present now. My Pain Body is agonising sadness and I have to pull off the M1 to write…. To face into the feelings and emotion that is rising out of my heart and my gut and through my mind.
Writing is a release.
The huge sob that has just erupted from me, startling my fellow Costa patrons… is release.
My Pain Body. I salute you. You are big. You are ugly. But I let you out and release you.
I am living in the present moment. I have a hot tea… my fingers are flying across the keyboard…
I am calm.
I am present.
I am breathing in and out, in and out.
I am ready to get back in the car and find my boys and live in the moment of their hugs and kisses and their delighted shouts of ‘Mummy’… and I will smile, and the happiness will overwhelm the sadness. Light will flood through the darkness.