This week we moved my mother, soon to be 94, to an assisted living facility in Massachusetts near my brother Bob. She has been living near us here in Reston for almost 10 years, but the combination of my ALS and her growing fragility made staying here too hard for her and us. It became especially hard as my speech deteriorated while her hearing was getting worse — communication, which could be hard under the best of circumstances, became literally impossible.
We had great help to sort, pack and transport her stuff to her new home. So on moving day my son Simon and I picked her up and drove her to the airport to meet my brother and fly north. She was very talkative with Simon on the trip up – a little confused and forgetful, but in good spirits. I was sitting behind her in the car and unable to really participate in the conversation.
When we arrived at the airport we only had opportunity for a quick curbside goodbye. I realized it was probably the last time I would see her, held her hand, and tried to say goodbye. Not sure how many of my words she understood, but she could clearly read my eyes and face. Her eyes were full of sadness, but I was not sure if she understood that this was goodbye forever.
You can see where this is going for me – my goodbyes are not so far in the future and this was an opportunity to rehearse. Much like my bout with pneumonia in Turkey a year ago was a taste of being unable to breathe for me and an opportunity for intense caring for Roz.
I hope I did ok yesterday. Even if I were capable of speaking clearly, I had nothing left to say beyond goodbye and I know you will be safer, and perhaps even happier, in your new home. I know I have done everything I could have done. I have no regrets – just sadness.
So I am filled today with sadness, gratitude and forgiveness. As I take my inventory I am passing on items I can no longer use – clothes too big to fit, books I will not read again, electronics that can find a new home. And I am also discarding old grudges, resentments and scores to be settled. I have no use for them in my renewed journey.
I am practicing saying goodbye with love and hugs – every time. Life is literally too short for anything else.