These past seven months I’ve been on a mission. Throwing caution to the wind, I moved out of state temporarily to be near Mom to set her up to “age in place.” Amidst the plethora of preparations, we’ve shared many soulful moments.

What began as an odyssey is ending with an opus. Before launching into all her current and possible future arrangements (financial, legal, transportation, caregiving, home, household help, medical, family, etc.), it was important for us to sit down and talk. Heartfully and honestly talk — as if our lives depended on it. Because, they did.

The “Talk”

We prayed and cried before we spoke, surprising us both. Yet, deep inside we must have known that the outcome of this conversation would determine both our futures.

Mom was adamant, “I am not moving.” It didn’t matter that she would be living on a limited budget with no family available, she was not budging.

We honed in on how she wanted to spend her time — what was of highest value to her. How we would ensure that her priorities were part of her everyday life.

And, we reviewed her desires and details for her death.

Mom, nearing 90 years old, is smart as a whip and totally cognizant. She is fully capable of making her own decisions. So, regardless of my preferences, I was hell-bent on respecting her wishes as we created her plan of care.

Shared Experiences

While it’s been a lot of work for both of us, we’ve shared precious, poignant experiences we never would have had I not shown up.

We’ve enjoyed concerts, old movies and gardens together. I’ve watched Mom come alive, calling her a “perky little puppy” on my most recent birthday. She stood straight up, walked without her cane and wore the cutest shoes with bows on top — for a few hours anyway.

I’ve seen her transfigured: radiant — beatific even — as she received communion at Mass.

When one of my childhood friends came for a visit, Mom became a giggly girl again, laughing over lunch about all our teenage antics.

We’ve relied on each other for moral support during family reunions and ruckuses with our relatives.

There have been teary times, too. Mom reminiscing, doing her life review with me via albums, audio tapes and stories. Leave-taking. Closing gestalts.

Postmortem Message

Mom says it’s important to leave something personal behind, more than memories and mementos. Perhaps a hand-written letter, a recording or a video speaking specifically to your loved ones. Maybe consider an ethical will, meant to pass on your values, your legacy.

Ironically, it’s me who will be doing the leave-taking first. Soon, I’m headed home, returning to my affairs, my life. We both know, only too well, that Mom may not be here when I plan to come back for her birthday in the spring.

We accomplished what we set out to do — she has an opus of a care plan now. Yet, just showing up — being present with my mother — has been the greatest reward of this odyssey.

The “talk,” the shared experiences and listening to Mom’s personal audio postmortem message with her while she is still alive are what my soul will treasure long after she’s gone.

We are put on earth for a little space that we might learn to bear the beams of love.
— William Blake