Experiencing Joy in The Ride: While My Mother Transitions

I am writing this from Iowa, where I’ve been almost a week since I made an emergency visit. You see, my mother is slipping away and preparing to transition on. She has been in an assisted living facility with dementia for over three years now but last weekend she had a mild stroke. So her physical body is shutting down.  She’s been under the care of Hospice for over a month or so as well.

If you have never had the experience of the loving care of Hospice services, I can tell you that they are a such a gift for anyone experiencing the loss of a loved one. Since I know that this is not “the end,” I don’t think of it as a loss exactly, and even so, the experience is still emotionally draining at times.

My main goal is to bring joy to my mom’s last days here and keep her comfortable. Hospice provides many tools in which to keep her physical body comfortable but it is the human element that they provide that is making all the difference in this transitional time: the countless volunteers who sit and talk to her when I’m not around, the visits from the nursing team, the spiritual counselor, and the social worker who arranged for me to get a guitar so I can play and sing for my mom, amongst other things. Imagine a world where we all had this kind of care whenever we were sick!

In this joy ride of transitioning, we’ve had some laughs along the way so far.  My mom loves beer but due to her health, it’s been at least over 3 years since she’d had any. The Hospice team provides little sponges on sticks that one can dip into different liquids to wet the patient’s mouth and provide some liquid nourishment. So I asked about the beer and they said, “Absolutely give her what she loves!”  So we got a six-pack! 🙂  While she’s not chugging it down, she was so delighted and filled with joy at the taste of that beer!

Yesterday was also another joyful day. Hospice has a music therapist who came over with her guitar and songbooks in hand. When she learned that I loved to sing, we ended up singing together beautiful duets next to my mom’s bed for over an hour. My uncle came in about half way through and added his humorous musical talent of real-life story lyrics to famous songs.  While my mom kept her eyes closed during the jam session, she was smiling all the way through it. And we were laughing and feeling good, too!

Later, as I was reflecting on our day, I couldn’t help but remind myself that this is how it’s meant to be. Life is supposed to be fun. It is all about joy and love and that doesn’t stop when one is the middle of “dying.” Since I know in my soul that this is not the end for my mom, I use the word “dying” loosely. I prefer to say she’s transitioning. So while she makes her way, I’m intending joyful, peaceful, comfortable and happy times.  In fact, I’m intending that after she goes, too.

Now where’s that beer?

A Work in Progress

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Have a great day!


Make Today Your Personal Independence Day!

On the 4th of July,  Independence Day in the United States, I often reflect on what I appreciate about my country. There are many things for which I’m grateful but perhaps the one thing that really stands out to me is the freedom to express myself in a venue such as this blog. I am reminded of my appreciation of this independence in my life when I visit places where the internet is censored, where people are imprisoned for expressing an opinion that is contradictory to the government in charge, or where people have to speak softly, for fear of being persecuted about their opinions. So I highly value my independence here in the U.S., where I can freely share on this blog!

On another level, I’m reminded of another type of independence that we all have,  no matter where we live. We have the freedom to be ourselves with our thoughts, our intentions and our dreams. Even in the most oppressive of situations, no one can control how you think, what you imagine for your life and your dreams. And if you say that they can, then you are giving them too much power!  We all have control over our thoughts, if we practice it.

So on this Independence Day, why not declare yourself free from fear, from judgments, from disappointment, from caring about what other people think? Declare that you’re going to focus on being happy, no matter what! 

There are many wonderful resources out there to assist you in your emotional independence. Today I’ll recommend one: Marci Shimoff’s “Happy for No Reason: 7 Steps to Being Happy from the Inside Out.” Happy Independence Day!