Tomorrow my family will lay my dear Mom, Margaret-Ann Crane to rest beside my Dad, under the trees next to the beautiful golf course he helped build. So many of you have travelled along the year’s long journey of her gradual transition to this day through the many emotions, challenges and joys I experienced in my role as her caregiver. I knew I was not alone in struggling to find the stillpoint on which to surrender to the aging and dying process of a beloved parent. I heard from so many of you who are also finding the road to your own understanding and acceptance of the impending loss of a loved one, as you shared in this journey with me.
I really do believe that it is through our most intimate relationships that you can come to discover the truth about yourself. The love is intense and so can be the anger, the fear and the guilt that is rooted in the interactions that we play out with each other. The opportunity is there to learn so much about the patterns that you have absorbed and taken on that influence your own behavior, decision making and ability to live without being ruled by expectations, assumptions, and perceptions of rejection, betrayal and abandonment by others. A close relationship is like sitting and looking at yourself in a mirror to see the good, the bad and the ugly. It is not for the faint of heart I have come to realize, but it is where there is the opportunity for so much growth and change within yourself if you are willing to see the reflection.
I always knew I was very like my mother. I received her gift of compassion and empathy for others that she so ably demonstrated to me throughout her years of giving to the community, to her church, to her family and friends and to any stranger on the street who seemed to need her help. I’ll never forget the Christmas Eve she walked in the door from picking up a few last minute groceries with a somewhat disheveled young fellow behind her. “Michael is going to be having dinner with us,” she said and that was that. He was welcomed into the planned evening of activities, and sat wide-eyed as my Mom treated him like a member of the family, serving him his meal and engaging him in conversation. She truly was amazing!
Two nights before she passed away, I was sitting in my chair at home in the early evening. I suddenly felt a wave of emotion come over me and almost a pulling at me to get in the car and go out to Mom’s care home. So, at nine o’clock I got in the car and out I went. The home was quiet and still and I went in her room and closed the door. I sat for an hour by her bed, listening to her struggle with the moistness of her breathing and holding her hand, I tried to move past the physical presence of her seeming suffering and connect to her spirit. My heart moved me to walk over to pick up her portable headphones resting on the TV that were connected to an easy listening channel. As I did, the words of the next song came up on the screen and it read, It Is Time To Say Goodbye. I felt the voice of God saying, yes, she is ready now. I put on the headphones and sat in her Geri-Chair, reclined back just as she had sat for several months now. I knew as I listened to this beautiful song that she would leave us soon. As I continued listening, her breathing was no longer at the forefront, as so many familiar tunes we both loved came on over the headphones one after another. A movie of pictures began to play in my head of all the beautiful times that I remembered. I felt her spirit all around me and my Dad letting me know he was waiting and was in his dancing pose ready to take her in his arms. I felt at peace.
I wondered to myself why we so often tend to focus on the struggles in our relationships and give less time to just letting the joys fill our being. Each morning as I wake these past few days I remember this gift and start my day with my heart filled with what is good. Like the gift of hindsight, it is after a parent dies that in a moment you seem to see the picture of their life as a whole, all the moving parts fitting properly in their place in relation to what they were here to teach you.
Helen Keller said, “The best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even heard, but must be felt with the heart.” We love you with all our hearts Mom.