“Once the parent becomes the child, there’s actually a sweetness that returns to the relationship as it calls up from the heart maternal feelings instead of old rebellions and resentments.”
This is a quote from Darla concerning the changing of roles we experienced as we walked down the cancer path with our parents.
I remember thinking….”This situation is about them, not me.” It is about what is happening to them, not what is happening to me. The important thing is about the cancer in their bodies, not the weariness in mine. It is about their physical pain, not my emotional pain. It is about making sure they are as comfortable as possible, not whether or not I got a shower that day. They became the focus of my attention.
There are no perfect parents and mine made their share of mistakes with my sisters and I. I still carry with me baggage that came from some of the poor parenting decisions they made. However, once they entered the arena of terminal illnes, I stored all that baggage in a closet in my mind and closed the door. None of it mattered. None of it was important.
What was important was the fact that my parents were sick and I was not going to abandon them. No matter what. With the baggage behind closed doors mentally, I was free to love my parents and care for them in their last months, weeks, and days without any resentment or contemplation on how this was affecting my life. Yes, I had my moments of exhaustion, physical, mental, and emotional.
However, those moments were temporary, because I recognized that my parents illnesses were also temporary. One day they wouldn’t be sick any more. One day they would not be in any pain. One day they would be completely healed. Their lives would come to and end here on earth and they would be in heaven “standing tall and whole”.
Because their illness was temporary and would one day be over, and because my life would then return to normal, albeit a new normal without my parents, I kept putting ‘one foot in front of the other’, day after day caring for and loving my parents.
As I share these thoughts, I must also say that my sisters also did their share and more. We were all in this together and none of us grumbled or complained to each other or to our parents.
However, Darla did jockingly say to Mother one day, “Mother, if you and Daddy were both going to have cancer at the same time, you should have had more children!” She gave us our laugh for the day.