My sister and I spent Saturday packing up my mother’s room at the assisted living lodge where she has been living for the past ten years.
In December she fell, broke her hip and 3 other bones. The operation on her hip was successful, the other bones have set. Her recovery was going well, and then, something pulled inside her knee/hip, and she is struggling to walk.
She can no longer get out of bed, or do much of anything, without assistance.
She needs a higher level of care. She has to move.
As I said to my sister on Saturday while going through mom’s papers, trying to decide what to keep, what to throw out, “This would be much easier if mom weren’t alive.” The going through her things part is what I was referring to, not my mother’s passing. At 94, it is inevitable that some day, week, month, or year in the future, she will be gone. For now, though her body is frail, her mind and heart remain strong.
In the packing up her things, in the sorting through her papers and collection of memorabilia from her life, it feels so wrong. Like I am treading on foreign soils, an uninvited stranger. These papers I am rifling through are her life story. Her secrets, her thoughts, her hopes and dreams.
My mother seldom shared much about her dreams.
She has shared often about her past. About her life in Pondicherry, before the war, before a handsome airman breezed into town and stole her heart, or at least the part of it she was willing to give that wasn’t attached to the land and people of her birth. That part she’d always left behind. Clinging to the regrets of having deserted her parents long ago to follow a man to the other side of the world.
She’s often shared her regrets of leaving India. Of leaving her family and life behind.
But she seldom shared her dreams.
I wonder now if she had any. I know before she met my father, she wanted to be a nun. That she was a teacher at the convent.
I know that marriage for her was scary at first.
My father breezed into town with a letter of introduction from one of her cousins, or perhaps it was an aunt. They met, shared a dance, or part of a dance at least because the story she tells is of him leaving her in the middle of the dance floor because he couldn’t dance. Two weeks later they were married, despite his lack of dancing shoes.
Four weeks later he was gone. Back to the war.
He came back two years after that.
The war was over and he was returning to Britain. With his bride.
She’d been unsure if he would return. “The nun’s said these soldiers would come to town and take advantage of us,” she told me. “They said he had no plans to return.”
The nuns were wrong, and my mother’s journey away from the heart of her story began.
She was 23 years old.
On Saturday, I sorted through my mother’s things and found bits and pieces of her story, morsels left upon the road of life, leading me back to where her story began.
In Pondicherry, India.
There is so much more to this story and in my eldest daughter’s words as we chatted on the phone last night, it became crystal clear that is it time to gather the threads in search of the missing pieces.
Thank you Joshua Becker, at Becoming Minimalist for the inspiration this morning. Joshua shares a beautiful story about his grandfather, a man who continues to work at 95 years of age as a pastor.
His story: Top Five Regrets of the Dying, begins with:
Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who spent several years caring for patients during the last 12 weeks of their lives, routinely asked her patients about “any regrets they had or anything they would do differently.”
Bronnie spoke of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people would gain at the end of their lives and the common themes that surfaced again and again during these conversations.
Eventually, in a book about the experience, she would distinctly identify “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.” They are:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so much.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
From Joshua Becker: Becoming Minimalist — Top Five Regrets of the Dying
The read the rest of Joshua’s beautiful story, click here.