When I was a little girl, one night I dreamed our house was on fire. We stood in the night, watching it burn. The next day, I told my mom about the dream and said that I did not want her to die. She assured me that she did not want her to die either. A little girl can be self-centered. I said I was relieved that she would not want to leave me. She said that it had nothing to do with me – it was her life and she valued it. It hurt my feelings a little at the time, but as a woman, I understand why this was a healthy response. She valued herself and her life as an individual, separate from the roles of her life. It was a good lesson for a future woman.
They say that getting old is not for sissies. Neither is watching parents age. When my dad died, one of my dearest friends said, “Well, you’re in the club now. Welcome to humanity.” It is something most of us experience and if we can explore this experience as a way to feel truly connected to each other, we can grow and heal. When we take a dip into the well of the collective unconscious, it becomes difficult to think of other groups of humans as the them to our us. Empathy is everything when it comes to loving thy neighbor.
Mom has been very sick. As I feed her, I can’t help but ache for her. And for her children and grandchildren. My mom is the one who needs the mothering now. But, unlike babies and toddlers, we are not preparing her to grow up. We are helping to ease the burden of growing old. And in the coming months, we will love on her as she leaves this world, wishing her a peaceful transition. This is not my first right of passage, but it is proving to be my most difficult. I am watching my mother walk into a burning house, only this time it is not a dream. Part of me will always be that little girl who loves her mommy so.