Sometimes goodbyes are far from what we wanted them to be.
Towards the end before my mom passed away, she lost her ability to speak and communicate. Yet I seemed to develop a language of understanding what she wanted to say or ask or was concerned about. I believe it was because my life circumstances allowed me to spend years with her, helping my father with the care giving, but I know not everyone had or can have this opportunity.
As I was able to have my parents live with me and my son for almost nine years before she passed away, I was able to get to know her much more. I was able to get to know her usual patterns throughout the day and over a month, understand the relationships she built with the hospice workers who worked with us at home, and observe the intricate ways her relationship with her husband grew through this life stage.
I was there daily for the most part, but I know this isn’t a story everyone can tell. Perhaps you were able to visit regularly, or had a chance to be there for just a brief moment. Maybe you did not arrive in time.
Perhaps there was a neurological or mental condition that affected your loved one’s ability to communicate or seem like themselves anymore. Perhaps your relationship with your loved one had been strained before the moment of passing.
I just want to speak from the heart of a mother myself and a daughter observing how my mom tried to communicate after she lost her speech, and relay the words:
“I love you.”
…to all the loved ones and caregivers out there who may not have heard these words. I did not hear these words myself at the time of parting, but there is a level of communication that remains after speech ends or gets distorted.
Deep beneath the loss of speech, changed personality due to a neurological condition, or total mental breakdown, is or was still the person you once knew and loved, and who once loved you and was enthusiastic to be around you.
Sometimes love has to involve giving the benefit of the doubt that if conditions were different, the words you would have wanted to say and hear would have been exchanged. That is what we must focus on to honor our loved ones, who they once were and what they once were capable of. Allow their healthier selves to dictate the long term impact of their lives on yours and allow yourself to see the less than ideal goodbye (or lack thereof) in perspective of that.
I hope that these words can release more memories of your loved ones from a time when they were healthy, laughing through the hallways, splashing water with you, eating under the sun, chasing you, sitting on a bench with you, running to a gate to catch a plane with you or other memories that may be shadowed by a less than ideal goodbye. May it release you from any heaviness because this is not what your loved one, in their right frame of mind or healthy condition, would have wanted to part you with. And may you know that the words, “Thank you,” and “I love you” are probably not even enough to fully communicate what they felt at the time they parted.
I would bet that every loved one would try to communicate in whatever way they could if they were able to, like the story of the dying grandmother who wrote in code before she passed away.
For those who are going through journeys where perhaps it is difficult to find good memories because the nature of your relationship with someone who passed away, I hope to also hear from you and what has helped you. Your journey involves much more strength and unconditional love.
Until our next hello,
Related story – “Dying Grandmother’s Mystsery Code Cracked by the Internet After 20 Years”
Original source of the story – “Decoded Cancer-Addled Ramblings”
Photo credits: “A Year in Boarding Passes” Kim Davies with Creative Commons License (photo cropped)
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