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Mom's Final Lesson Part I

Updated on March 8, 2014
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My mom was a very independent person. She worked full time until she was eighty-five years old, and the only reason why she retired then was because she broke her back at work and was forced to retire. So, for her to be put in the position of having to be taken care of was extremely difficult. She felt a measure of guilt because she had to be waited on. I thought it was just because she was so independent, but I was about to find out differently.

When we first started having Hospice Nurses come to the house, mom would tell them that she felt undeserving of having to be taken care of like she was. They would always tell her that she was a good mother, always took care of her daughter and now her daughter is happy to take care of her, and that was true, I was happy to be able to take care of mom.

Mom kept apologizing to me for having to be taken care of, and I kept telling her that I was happy to take care of her, she was my mom. And then one day she said something and I got on to her like always, but this time she reminded me that it was something that I had said to her years ago when I was angry with her. What could I say? She was throwing my own words back at me.

I had no recourse; I couldn’t take back what I had said years ago, all I could do was tell her that I was sorry for being so hurtful, and in no way did I mean what I had said. Those words spoken in anger so long ago, I thought were dead and gone, but like a ghost from my past, they were coming back to haunt me.

Remember that little rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me”? Well, it’s not true; words do hurt.

Mom asked me how I felt, and I said that I felt like a donkey’s rear end, and if I could turn back time I would do so. She proceeded to tell me that she knew that I didn’t mean what I had said to her, that I was speaking out of anger, and as far as she was concerned it had long been forgotten, but she added this, “There’s going to come a time when someone might say or do something to you, and they’re going to be remorseful, and want you to forgive them. I want you to remember how you feel right now!”

Ouch! My eighty-eight year old mother was taking an opportunity to teach her fifty-five year old daughter a hard lesson. My mom knew that she was the one that kept me in check my whole life, but she wasn’t going to be around much longer to be able to do that. She had to do something drastic so that I wouldn’t soon forget her final lesson; and that was, to “Remember” (How I felt), so that I can be forgiving of others.

March 2014; One Year Later

I have to admit, if the circumstances would have been different, the day that mom gave me a little reminder of how I hurt her feelings years ago, it would have likely provoked an argument from me, but because she was terminally ill, it was a very effective lesson, one of which I still think about.

I don’t know how many times over the course of this passed year, since mom has been gone, that I’ve stopped myself from just blurting out something before thinking about what I was saying. Obviously, mom’s little reminder tells me that what I said, years ago, had stayed with her; I told her that she was a real pain in the butt, which would have been the last thing that I would have wanted to make her feel like when she was in need. The words I spoke to my mom in anger so long ago became what she saw herself as being, at the end of her life when she needed to be taken care of. I will never forget; the words we speak are not being spoken at someone, but they are being spoken into someone.

Quote: The Chofetz Chaim

“The self-image is a malleable entity. People pick up clues as to their own worth through the way others treat them.” - Excerpt from the ‘Chofetz Chaim, A Lesson A Day’

I can’t help but wonder about the soul part of mankind; our mind, will and emotions. Why are we capable of completely changing the way we think, act or react when someone close to us is terminally ill? Where does the self discipline suddenly come from when circumstances change?

Quote: Ambrose Bierce

“Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” - Ambrose Bierce

I’ve made that speech several times in my life, and believe me, I’m not proud to admit that. It breaks my heart to think about hurting my mom, and that it took her getting sick to force me to be more careful about my words. Obviously the potential to be more disciplined was there all along, or I wouldn’t have been able to make the change,

I just needed to learn that it's better to say nothing at all, than to regret something that you said in haste..

Quote: Lao Tzu

“Silence is a source of great strength.” - Lao Tzu

Mom's final lesson is one that I will never forget, because it addresses an area of my life that I struggle in the most, and it has caused me to think constantly about the words that I speak and the thoughts that I keep to myself.

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