Friday, September 01, 2006

Guilt and Anger Take A Holiday - Part I

I've been thinking quite a lot lately about guilt and anger. Just about the time I think I have the start of this piece, something happens and my thoughts go off in a different direction. So after several trips down deadend roads, the most recent of which was last night, I find myself at yet another starting point. This time my guide was resignation.

About a year after dad died in January '01, I worried a lot about mom's health and her isolation. She was living in Modesto at the time and we had moved to Turlock about three years before. Granted, I was only 13 minutes (not speeding minutes) away but there was always this worry in the back of my mind - what if something happened to mom and no one found her for a while. The logical answer, of course, would be to get one of those little lifeline alarms one wears as a bracelet or necklace but figuring out three phone numbers to program in was a problem. Mom hated to bother people and rarely reached out to others. Oddly enough, she never declined giving help to others, but asking for it herself??? Well . . . no.

Anyway, time went by and when mom successfully sold her mobilehome, the alarm idea fell off my radar. Mom was now living in a senior independent living apartment complex, was surrounded by lots of nice people, was making new friends, going places, and creating a wonderful post-dad life. She was in a routine that kept her present in the daily life of many people and I wrapped myself in a false sense of security.

The problem with routine is that it can be disrupted so easily. So, one terrible morning my mom missed breakfast. Her friend Gloria had a medical appointment that morning so had left early and did not return until lunch. The routine was that mom and Gloria would always walk over to breakfast together unless other plans were happening. They always checked with each other. WhenGloria didn't find mom at the dining room, she asked others about her whereabouts, but no one remembered seeing her that morning. Gloria, being the widow of a Army General who had been assigned to the Pentagon and with a history of visits to the White House, was truly a take-charge woman. So with Rick the maintenance man in hand, she went to mom's apartment. It didn't take long to discover that my mom had suffered a massive stroke hours before. And here lay the birth of guilt and anger.


trailbee said...

I believe that these two have a symbiotic relationship in Christian faith. We give our cares over to God, then forget and take them back; ergo..... Zen teaches acceptance - less involvement, less stress. Very distressing.

pepektheassassin said...

I am so sorry about your mother. It was not your fault. I'm sure you know that, in your head, but not in your heart. It was not your fault. Don't beat yourself up. Give yourself the credit you've earned by being such a good, loving, and caring daughter. It's just life happening. Let it be.

AnnieElf said...

You are right pepe, it is something I know in my head but can't feel in my heart yet. That is something I hope to tackle as I write the Holiday entries. I've had enough of the guilt and anger but shaking it off is not so easy. Today's feelings of resignation (which I have not even talked about yet)actually lead me to the doorway of acceptance. Funny how you can know the way but taking that first step . . .

pepektheassassin said...

Consider the lilies. Let it be.

Autrice DelDrago said...

Annie - OUCH. I'd be beating myself up as well, and every time I thought of it, I would be wondering "if only I had called" or "if only Mom lived with us."

We can "if only" ourselves to tears (or death!) My own mother went through a "if only" when her mother had a stroke. My Nonna was staying with my Aunt, and when the stroke happened, my aunt was right there and the paramedics whisked my Nonna off right away. The complications were severe, and my Nonna passed away shortly afterwards. So, my mother, living in CA, had her "if only I was in Ohio with Mum" moments for a long time. And my aunt? - "if only we lived closer to the hospital!"

When we live every moment of the day stressing because our loved one is apart from us, it turns into an obsession. It takes over our lives, and shackles us so that we can't live. On the other hand, "if only" is normal thinking. I'm sure Gloria thinks "if only I had skipped that appointment!" Well, if only they served breakfast to the residents in their rooms, or if only they provided life alert to all residents!

It doesn't matter when it comes to "if only" because things always happen according to God's will. If only Pope John Paul hadn't died... would we have Pope Benedict? If only Judas hadn't betrayed the Lord... would someone else have, or would we not have his suffering on the Cross? If only Mary had not given birth to the Lord... she would not have had to suffer the pain of watching her son die.

When I get the urge to inflict myself with "if only" when thinking of the tragic things I have gone through in life, I am reminded of the words Pope John Paul spoke: Jesus, I trust in you. This came right from the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy. Things happen as God needs them to, and when you think "if only", don't punish yourself... because it is all happening as God intends, and there is something positive about it. "If only I had called Mom" becomes "God had Gloria find her because He knew how much more painful it would have been had I been the one to discover her!"

God had your Mom sell her mobile home because he knew, down the line, she should be in a place where she could be discovered quickly. She lives in a complex that has the proper procedures for taking care of senior citizens and the medical emergencies that happen to them - if she had lived in your house, and you came home from running an errand, would you have a staff on hand to help you during the immediate emergency?

I can't say that you are wrong to doubt, or that your feelings of guilt and anger are incorrect... because God created us to have these feelings! I can promise you that, when my own Mum eventually goes through something like this (she is 71), I will fall apart as my world comes to a crashing end. But, I also know that the strength to heal is within me (and you!), as it was in my mother when her mother had her stroke. That strength comes from the Lord. It is born of love and the bonds between ourselves and our mothers, and as we mature, it grows.

Someday our mothers will leave this beautiful earth and walk with Jesus in heaven, and the hardest thing we will ever have to do is watch as they struggle in their final days or years. I think the amount of pain we feel is a good measure of just how much we love them.

Your mother is a beautiful and goodly woman - I know this because I see her reflected in her daughter! I don't have to know your mother personally to see her shining through your own kind heart! It doesn't matter that she is in a hospital, or if she were on vacation in Florida! You see, that part of her... the part that echoes all the amazing things that make her loved by those around her... will shine for eternity through you and your own children. It is a legacy of love and compassion that can not be broken by the oppression of death at our doors. It is the most powerful gift we can be given by our mothers, and it is the most powerful gift that we can impart to our children. Nothing, NOTHING, can take that gift away from us!

Depression, sadness, anxiety, guilt, anger - all are okay to go through. We mourn an illness or death because we have sorrow that the one we love can no longer be as they once were (our mental picture of them, always younger than they currently are, and full of vigor!) It is a selfish but totally understandable and human one. These are emotions that come from the heart, and they are an expression of love in themselves. Please don't get angry at yourself for having these feelings!

You are in my prayers, as is your Mom. I know this is probably too long to publish as a comment, and you don't have to publish it at all.

Star said...

I have no words of wisdom to impart, just the words to tell you that I have had those "wish I would have..." times also. We can't go back, but we can learn and hopefully make better decisions as a result.

Sending a hug your way in lieu of wisdom.

paris parfait said...

It's very sad, but the truth is, Annie, that there's nothing you could have done. It's not your fault and you shouldn't waste your time and energy feeling guilty over something over which you have no control. You have been and are still a loving daughter to your mom and I'm sure she knows and appreciates that. Don't be so hard on yourself. As the old saying goes, Do the best with what you have, where you are at the time. Don't keep looking backwards and kicking yourself over something that had nothing to do with you. xo

Tongue in Cheek Antiques said...

Along the way life happens, we are part of it but cannot control it. And sometimes it hurts, and sometimes in stings, and sometimes it isn't easy to bear. Most the time it isn't fair. And yet we love and trust and hurt and cry....
forgiveness in all things.
I feel for you. I am sorry for your Mother too. Seeing someone we love suffer is hard to bear.
My love and prayers are with you and your family, as this birth of guilt and anger comes full circle and let go and trust that everything has a reason even if we do not understand it. I trust your love will lead the way to healing this pain, and give birth to peace and courage.
Oh Annie!