I lost my father quickly when I was twenty-one years old. He passed away over the course of 36 hours following some complications from a medical procedure. My mom was a young widow at just 58 years old. It was my second senior year of college, and I was getting ready to apply for graduate schools. My whole life would change nearly overnight.
Experts tell you not to make any big decisions for at least a year after a major life event, especially tragic ones. We broke that rule good. My mom decided that I should continue to apply for graduate schools, but in Texas where we had family. We sold the house, packed up a couple decades worth of memories, and off we went into a foreign land.
During those two years, we continued on as though very little had changed. Certainly, there was a giant hole in our lives, but mom was still social and spunky. It wasn’t until after we would go our separate ways following my graduation that I would begin to notice the changes.
True to her best self, my mother moved to Oregon on a bit of a whim after visiting Portland on vacation while escaping the Texas heat. I had been in Michigan for about six months at this point. Our once close relationship would begin to strain a little over the years as she struggled alone on the west coast while my career and life demanded my attention here in the Great Lakes region. My career path didn’t include a treasure chest, and my mother was retired, so there were not large sums of money with which to buy airline tickets. We would resign ourselves to two visits per year, three if we threw caution to the wind.
It was a few years down the road that I would begin to notice a difference in her behavior. She frightened more easily. She was depressed, but not eager to get help. She was understandably lonely, but isolated herself. The larger-than-life, brave mother I had known all my life was starting to fade, and I had no idea how to help her. She was used to her independence and my attempts felt too much like bossing her around. To be fair, I probably was bossing her around.
As time has gone on and the effects of age and illness have left their mark, I admit that I struggle to connect with my mom at times. I remember the woman who was fearless and full of life. Now she is a woman who seems withdrawn, easily frightened, and forgetful that there is joy left in life. She is not the woman I remember and want her to be, and in some ways, our relationship has reversed. While she would never admit it, my mother needs the nurturing of a mother, not a daughter.
It wasn’t until very recently as she was going in for surgery that I finally surrendered to the fact that I need help as our relationship changes. The beauty of the Catholic faith is that, alongside Jesus, there is always a saint in waiting when we are looking for a helping hand or shoulder to cry on. Here are five that have come to have a special place in my heart as I continue to learn how to have an adult relationship with my mom.
I’ve long had a love of St. Monica because of her devoted prayer for her children. She has inspired me to become more attentive to serving as an intercessor for those needing prayer. Imagine my surprise when I googled “patron saint for patience” and found her at the helm! While she patiently prayed for her children, that same patience in prayer can help me in loving and serving my mother without annoyance or despair.
St. Vincetia Lopez
According to a CatholicStand.com article, St. Vincentia is said to have written her mother the following: “Come and stay with us, and your ills will certainly mend. Imagination plays a large part in them, and here there are so many distractions that you will have no time to think.”
These words of St. Vincentia serve as a vital reminder to me. It is so important for my mom to feel needed. I know I fall into a funk when I feel useless, and my mother is no different. Having no one to serve at home, I need to engage her in finding a way to serve others so she knows she still has gifts to share.
St. Jeanne Jugan
St. Jeanne is the patron saint of the elderly. She exemplified in her life total self-giving to love in the elderly the person of Jesus. As I understand it, Jesus appeared to St. Jeanne in the guise of an elderly woman in need of a place to lay her head. In response, St. Jeanne offered the woman her own bed while she slept in the attic. In my struggle to let go of myself to provide my mother the nurturing she needs, St. Jeanne serves as a model, mentor, and friend.
Blessed Julian of Norwich
“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well”
These words are the gift of Blessed Julian of Norwich. Her words here are a message for both my mother, as fear begins to rise, and for me, as I worry about what the future might hold. Her words remind me that the victory has already been won, and that Christ has cared for everything in His time.
The saint of Divine Mercy, St. Faustina reminds me that at the heart of it all, Christ wants to pour out his mercy on all of us – moms included. When tempers are high, when stress eats at our soul, when I don’t think I can do what I’m being asked, St. Faustina pushes me to surrender to mercy and pour it out. When impatience rears its ugly head and frustration mounts, I can implore Jesus to pour out His mercy, and I can say in surrender: Jesus, I trust in You.
It is not easy to be a caregiver to young children at home and a parent at the same time. I can sometimes feel invisible and stuck in the middle. In the example of the Saints and in surrendering to Christ, I am learning that giving completely of myself doesn’t equal losing myself in the process. In Jesus there is enough time, patience, and mercy to fill us all.
Have you become a caregiver to a parent? What has helped you to embrace your role without losing yourself?
Copyright 2015 Rakhi McCormick
Photo copyright 2015 Rakhi McCormick. All rights reserved.