The heat of the south’s summer is subsiding where I live in a suburb of Charlotte, NC. I’m anticipating a calmer, cooler fall that encourages getting outside more and observing tree leaves turning to their fall-preferred-colors of yellow, orange, or cranberry. This fall solstice date seems to beckon me to take a deep breath and reflect on life of the past year.
A year ago much was happening. Life felt like a speeding train taking my breath away but simultaneously felt like a zapping of energy as I struggled to scale massive mountains.
I retired, or as I tell friends, my paycheck stopped the end of September. What I envisioned my date of celebratory retirement would be like, did not transpire. There was no party. Not even a lunch with co-workers. Thanks mostly to a world embroiled in a pandemic and keeping social distance from each other. But there was also my 86-year-old mother who was in her dying process after six plus years of Alzheimer’s. Added to that was the propping up of my 85-year-old father who knew not how to live without his bride of 67 years by his side, even if she did not know who he was. My mom had slowly died in stages over the years. She lost her strong-will and tenacity to take on life’s obstacles early on with the disease. She who was never a follower, followed my dad around like a lost puppy. She eventually stopped walking or talking. She sat in a recliner and slept much of the day, her pretty blue eyes void of any life. The hired caretakers saved my sanity. I wasn’t meant to be a nurse, and changing my mom’s Depends was excruciatingly painful emotionally. My heart broke knowing she would have hated what was happening to her, if she had had the capability to know what was happening. Which, she did not.
Her decline snuck up on her, and at the beginning of the journey, when we told her of the diagnosis, the woman who had declared to me, “I never want to be like that” had no reaction. None. She didn’t understand what was happening. She gave us no instructions on what to do for her other than a previously signed Do Not Resuscitate form displayed on the side of the refrigerator. From the onset of her diagnosis, what used to be a quarterly trip to their house, I now travelled two hours from my home to theirs on multiple weekends each month to be of assistance. The routine was, she was fed and bathed, and put to bed by caretakers with me, my dad, my sister and brother often assisting.
Pain pours out of our pores in unexpected ways. With my family members it poured in unreasonable ways. I found myself struggling with my siblings, who were unhappy with things I did or did not do, what I said, or how I said it. I became their personal punching bag to sort their frustrations out with. I lost my mom, but I also lost my siblings. On many occasions I bypassed crying and fell into the dark abyss that could only be expressed through sobs that created headaches once subsided.
In the final month of my mom’s life, my sister, brother and I found common ground and together dealt with my mom’s passing process. For 22 days we propped our dad up emotionally as my mom slowly made her exit. The Alzheimer’s years had been difficult. The dying process was heart wrenching. But finally, she was released. Appropriately with the 2020 fall solstice she took her last breath and left with the angels to a whole, healed spirit. She began a new journey. A relief that for first time in over six years, gave way to a sense I could communicate with her spirit.
With her passing, I received a lot of heartfelt messages, from friends with the words, “I am sorry for your loss.” What I felt was, the loss had been ongoing for six years, in a slow, hideous challenging journey. Each visit to care for her was like facing a different component of slow death. For me, the loss did not happen the day she died. What I feel happened that day was, I gained her back. I knew she was now of the spirit world (she was and I am a Christian so I believe whatever the other side looks like, that is where she is). With the solstice of the 22nd of September, 2020 she finally transitioned to where she belonged.
Now as I embrace my retirement in this fall solstice stage of my life, I look forward to transitioning as I embrace the calmer temperatures of living, the more equalized life train ride I am now on, and feeling my mother’s spirit as I walk amongst the colorful trees as they begin their next stage of transitioning.
5 thoughts on “Fall Solstice”
Beautifully written. I can sooo identify with your experience.
Keep writing, my friend!
Carol, thank you. I thought of you yesterday. We never forget those final days. I can relate to your heartfelt story. So beautifully written. ❤️You.
Carol that was beautifully written and I hope it was healing to write. You have a gift and I hope you will keep sharing it. Keep writing!
Carol, you have the gift of words!
Such a beautifully written piece Carol. I hope you are able to move forward in peace, with yourself, with your mother, with your family. Wishing you a very happy retirement life! Write on! ❤️