I have been a way for a while - in Santa Barbara helping my parents. I know, like many of you, you are either watching your parents age, or watched them age and then pass away. I feel truly blessed to be a part of my parents' lives and be able to watch them age, and in addition, to actually like them and love to be with them (an added bonus!) However, watching a parent suffer is so painful. My mother has been suffering in pain for six years - chronic headache pain. She has days when the pain is less, never a day when the pain is completely gone, and most days the pain is moderate to severe. For the last ten days, here pain has been severe and there is nothing that modern or alternative medicine can do about it. She has been to every kind of specialist that one should see. She spent three years going to a top-notch pain clinic, she has no less than three doctors on her case at all times. We feel that we have tried almost everything. There is no explanation except that it is most likely an auto-immune disease. (That catch all term for diseases that no one can figure out.) It seems as though her nerves are damaged and sending a continual message to her body that she is in pain. Add to this the fact that she has a form of Alzheimer's called Lewy Body Dementia, her situation is sad, to put it mildly.
Watching my father watch his wife go through this pain and become someone different everyday is also torture. The whole thing is heartbreaking. Those of us trying to help end up feeling helpless, like our efforts are futile. Even the doctors feel this way.
Witnessing my mother's changes and pain have brought different qualities out of me. I found out that I am a really good caretaker and nurse. I have an ability to just accept what I am seeing as a part of life and not try to fight it. I have a hunch years of meditation and yoga are helping me here. I have a reserve of calm and fortitude that is deeper than I could have ever imagined. I am learning (mostly by reading a lot) how to deal with my mother's dementia in a way that preserves her dignity and how to reach her on an emotional level when rational thoughts and conversation no longer work. I have learned more gratitude for what I do have and what we still have as a family. I take things less for granted. Don't get me wrong - I am not an expert in any of these things, but I am constantly learning by being in the thick of it.
So, while I wish my mother was out of her pain, I am fishing around for the tiny pearls of wisdom to be learned from this experience. Admittedly, there is another side to me that feels like a lioness - I want to roar and demand justice. I want someone to come up with a solution to help her. I want to protect her at all costs - even if to the extent of wishing euthanasia was legal.
I am not writing this for pity, but to, as always, make connections with others out there who must have experienced or are experiencing something similar.
My mother on a particularly good day three years ago, being feed one of her favorite foods - ice cream - by one of her granddaughters. While not a good photo, it is a happy one.
An added afterthought: I believe that suffering in life is a given. Whether it is emotional, mental or physical suffering - we cannot escape it. But as African Vanielje says in her comment below, it is how we deal with it that counts. It is through these lessons we have the opportunity to grow, learn and deepen our connection to others and the great spirit.