This piece was first published in Rockhurst University Magazine.
Lately, I’ve been intrigued by the subject of experiences. I’ve always been fascinated with human behavior and became curious about the concepts of how we have experiences, what enhances them, and how we can prepare ourselves to take full advantage of them.
Amid my intrigue and studies, I was fortunate to be able to help my sisters take care of my mother during the last few years of her life. I looked forward to providing experiences that would help strengthen her body, mind, and spirit. I was well equipped to take on this role after working nearly 34 years as a physical therapist teaching patients and families the skills of mobility and caregiving.
What I didn’t know going into this adventure was that I was needed more as a daughter than I was for my medical advice. I found out that my four sisters and I had our own set of unique eyes to see and know what our parents needed. At times I was caught off guard by emotions that struck me so hard, I felt paralyzed.
I wasn’t prepared for the feelings of helplessness and pain deep in my heart when, at the end of their life, both of my parents asked me to take them home. I found myself slipping into denial, but deep down, I knew the home they were looking for did not exist here on earth.
There were times of disappointment in myself when I had less patience for my mother than I had for the patients in the hospital. There were also the joyous and fun times we had working daily crossword puzzles and playing scrabble with a group in the independent living facility.
But the best experience I had was at the end. It was the gift my parents gave me at the end of their lives. It was after the years they spent striving to raise a family. They had played the game of life with integrity and persistence and received the blessings of sixteen grandchildren and the devotion of their daughters. The trials and sorrows they had faced were over.
In the end, they were able to shed the fear, disguise, and pretense that we all carry to some extent. And then I saw it. They were able to give me a glimpse of their soul. It was the soul I knew as a little girl. They held intact, deep within them, their solid core of strength and faith. I saw their truth and felt their love, and oh, what a sweet moment that was. They took me home. And it was to a home that is not here on earth. And I will forever be grateful for that experience.