My daughter’s favorite request since we all got knocked down by the stomach flu last week is “Mommy! Carry!” A few days ago when I went to pick her up, her mouth got close to my ear and my attention immediately went to the sound of her breath leaving her body as if there were no other sounds in the room. It’s a strange sound to suddenly tune into since we are breathing all the time without notice, and it’s strange to say this, but it was as if, somewhere in that moment, there was a message being delivered to me. A message to slow down. A message to recognize how small and vulnerable my daughter is. A message about my own fragility.
Today on Mother’s Day, the plan was to pick up my mom at 9am and bring her to our house for brunch with my family. My mother, who has severe Alzheimer’s and dementia, was to be an obviously integral part of the day, whether or not she knew who and what was going on around her. Just as I was getting ready to leave the house, my uncle called to tell me something was wrong with her arm and he intended on taking her to the hospital to get checked. As you can imagine, taking someone with her disease to the doctor is not an easy task. There is a lot of confusion, a lot of defensiveness. It’s hard work, but my uncle, being the incredible man that he is, took her in and as it turns out he made a good call. Nothing too serious going on, but there are signs that her body is starting to give way just as her neurologist warned it would. We ended up rearranging the day and taking the kids to visit her at her home and, despite her confusion, she seemed happy. Another lesson in wellness, health, and the frailness of life.
This Mothers’ Day I pondered how many lessons in my life were experienced and NOT explicitly taught – and there have been many. I realized that many of the things I have learned from mom were not from the words she spoke but from her actions. The way she would take care of us when we were sick. The way she would pray when she couldn’t sleep. The way she would prepare our food and what she’d make us eat when we weren’t feeling well. The way she would stroke my forehead and hair to calm me down. The way she carried on caring for everyone else when she wasn’t feeling well herself.
My mother’s words often got in the way of her communicating what she really felt. She had so much to say sometimes, like her mother before her, but most often it was in moments where she simply laughed, glared, sang, moved and loved that I learned the most.
What do you hope to teach others, to teach your children, in your unspoken actions?