My mother is dying. I just found out last week.
I haven’t been around death much because our family is small. So this is new territory for me.
To make matters worse, my mother isn’t fully aware that she is dying. Cirrhosis and Encephalopathy have set in from a lifetime of alcohol abuse.
We haven’t talked in a while because I made a decision to distance myself from her. Figuring out that distance has been one of the hardest parts of my faith. We are called to love and serve.
But how do you know when to not serve?
Is there such a thing as love from afar?
The Bible says that even the pagans are kind to their relatives.
What does that mean when you are estranged?
A sad realization for me is that I now know the sum total of our relationship. What we had is all that will be.
At some level, there was always a little hope off in the distance. Maybe she would desire for more. Maybe she’d remove herself from her unhealthy marriage. Now that hope is gone.
Do I now shift my hope to focus on her joining Eternity?
Arcade Fire has a line that says “Afterlife, oh my God, what an awful word”. I think their point is that focusing on the afterlife causes us to skip over this present darkness.
Soon I will go down to see her. I am her only son.
Parker Palmer, in his book Hidden Wholeness, says that part of being with someone who is dying is to sit quietly with their soul. Sitting quietly maintains respect for the person as God’s creation and child. Forcing an agenda, one’s own inquisitiveness, or desire for amends is to violate the sacredness of the person in their most sacred time.
People have asked me if she is a believer.
Who am I to judge?
I have many questions.
And anger. Sadness as well. Even relief. A kaleidoscope of emotions, swaying, ebbing, and crashing.
I feel like I don’t even know her.
Do I seek answers?
I’ve wronged her. I was not a good son.
Do I seek forgiveness?
Do I make amends?
I don’t think so. That time has passed.
She is entering into a new season. My new hope is to simply walk with her.
That might sound noble but its not. She’s not drinking now so the finality of her situation makes it easier for me to draw close. The Encephalopathy gives me reason to not press her.
Maybe the reality of our faith rests on the situation of life. We walk into perfection through the path before us. Love manifests in response to brokenness, much like hope and courage are made apparent in the face of despair. But sometimes love waits, even when brokenness is screaming in her face. And love laid dormant in one season, may be waiting for the next to sprout.
Who am I to know?
What I do know is my mom is dying. And she wants to see me.