One of the most difficult lessons to learn during my young mom years was to slow down and enter my child's world. As a task-oriented personality, I was often dragging my little ones through my to-do list, especially when I had to run errands out of my home. Occasionally, I would give in to their excitement over flowers or rocks and stop and admire with them. As I matured, I learned to organize more with their needs in mind. But, when push came to shove, I could always pack a snack, pick them up, put them in their car seats, and take off to do what I needed to do.
I'm once again being challenged to slow down and orient to the needs of another. This time, though, it's not little people. It is my mother and my sister. Both are challenged with declining cognitive abilities as well as physical struggles. To walk to the end of the driveway with either of them is a s-l-o-w process. For my sister, it's primarily the physical challenge of muscular dystrophy. We have to stop, rebalance, and take very small steps. She looks at the ground at her feet and is unable to see and process the rest of her environment. For my mom, it's partly physical and partly the distraction of the world around her - flowers, birds, the car across the street that's always parked there but that she thinks is new (every single day). Unlike earlier years, though, I can't just pick them up and put them in the car to pursue my tasks. I must orient myself completely to the world as they experience it, and I'm learning how to anticipate and flex with daily changes in abilities and behaviors.
The most important lesson of these past few months for me is this - while the body and brain may deteriorate, the soul of a person stays until the last breath. Mom needs me to look right at her when I speak. If I'm not right beside her, she will come and stand in front of me to tell me something so she can see my eyes. That's such an important connection. It is more significant for her (and for my sister) to know that I am there for them, not just doing tasks but simply being there. For me, this means far more sitting and T.V. time than I would ever choose for myself, but for them it communicates that I value and love them. Yes, I still feel restless in this season. I'm praying, though, that I'll learn to rest and enjoy those moments with them, because, like childhood, I won't have them here forever.