Recently I undertook the task of caring for my mother in law after she chose Hospice. She fought Cancer for several years and fought it valiantly. There were moments here and there when I didn’t think I could honestly continue to do it. I didn’t feel that way because I didn’t care about her, I felt that way because it was the most challenging thing I had ever taken on. As the caregiver of my husband, I knew the basic ins and outs of caregiving but this was different. This time I was dealing with the eventual end and that took every ounce of mental strength I could muster.
My mother in law always believed I was her Angel because I came into her sons life when she had already accepted that he would spend the rest of his life in a Nursing home. I could never have known at the time that this moment in our lives would be the reason I was inserted into her sons life. They say that everything happens for a reason, and she was my reason. We had our ups and downs but I knew without hesitation that she would be there for me and she knew I would never turn her away.
When the end started coming closer and closer it made me face my own feelings towards family and life in general. I felt things I wasn’t used to feeling. Watching death creep slowly into someone that you have cared for and loved for several years will test everything about yourself. It was torturous waking up everyday with the heart of a caregiver who was unable to change the outcome. I could only make her last days as beautiful as she was and I could see by her smile everyday that she was happy.
My mother in law was a beautiful and caring soul who always saw the good in people no matter what, She accepted my children as her own grandkids and embraced everything that came with them. I was not raised with a mother so I didn’t always know how to react or respond to things that she brought into my life. I also know that it wasn’t easy to penetrate my shell, but she never gave up on me. She would confide in me all of the things that hurt her and she shared all that made her happy. There was so much about people that she never understood, like how some could treat others so poorly. Even on the days that I lost patience or became irritated, she was always so open and inviting towards me. That is who she was and no one could have made her any different.
We took my mother in law home to rest recently and it only solidified my feelings of family unity even more. The past two months have been two of the most difficult I have had in a long time. I have lived away from family for most of my life and I believed I was immune to family type feelings. I was wrong, but this time my pain doesn’t come from the loss of my family, it comes from the loss I saw in my in laws eyes. I don’t want to feel that enormous loss and emptiness that I felt pouring out of them. The biggest lesson I learned was that family truly is precious and we need to do all that we can to embrace life with them. I also learned just how much I absorb from others around me and this entire process was mentally and physically painful to me. I can’t remember ever absorbing this amount of grief before but there is nothing I would have changed about the situation. I only wish that by absorbing the pain they felt I could have made things easier for all of them.