Six heartbreaking lessons life revealed while I looked after my terminally ill mum

Six heartbreaking lessons life revealed while I looked after my terminally ill mum

Learning about life through heartbreak & Loss

When a loved one suddenly becomes terminally ill, your life turns upsidown. Never in my life did I assume the 6-month journey would leave me with a heart so broken that I wondered how I would live the rest of my life without her presence. We never really believe our parents will pass away. It seems silly, but I always thought mum had many years ahead of her. But, despite my wish, it wasn’t meant to be. During the six months I stood by my mum’s side; I experienced many heartbreaking experiences. I didn’t know how to cope with them, put on a brave face and made myself available to service her needs. Within those final moments when she took her last breath, I knew her suffering, as well as my own, would end. All that would be left behind is the anguish of missing her & the painful lessons I learned along the way.


One: Knowing death is the end, but not knowing when

When the doctors and nurses said they could do nothing else for mum, it was only a matter of time before she died; I felt nothing but defeat. I knew this moment would come — but are we ever ready to say goodbye? When the time arrives for you, every minute, second, and last gesture is embedded in your mind. I held onto her desperately, yet she had to move to another dimension. The art of knowing but not knowing showed me how to be more patient and surrender to life cycles. We can control most things, but death is out of our hands.


Two: Watching the effects of disease take hold

As I think of this, tears well up in my eyes. Seeing my mother’s body deteriorate was something I had not prepared for. It made me fall to my knees. The person who grew me up helped me through the tough times and was always there for a warm hug — now I couldn’t do the simplest things. She failed to pick up a cup or spoon and couldn’t get up from the couch, bathe or use the bathroom anymore. Then finally, her vital responses stopped. Nothing could ever prepare me for the extent of pain I felt during those moments of surrender. Those small things I took for granted deteriorate with the disease. Suddenly, the body starts to surrender to the transitional phase of another life.


Three: Death isn’t one to fight with

When mum was first diagnosed, I had a list of all the things she should eat, do and have to beat cancer. I vowed to help her with it all, and together we would overcome this. It didn’t matter how many setbacks she faced or how much her health deteriorated — I still believed we had a chance. Even when she was lying in bed during her last few days, I still had a glimmer of hope in my heart that she might live. But one can’t fight death. If our time must end— nothing we say or do will prevent the inevitable. Sometimes fighting makes it even more painful — not only for you but for your loved one. When mum had an unsuccessful procedure, she said, “This is it; I’m not doing this again.” Although I knew the procedure would give her a few healthy months to live — she was ready to surrender to her future passing. Doing more things to keep her alive was harming the time she had here with us. I surrendered myself and let the journey unfold as it did — allowing her to experience peace leading up to her death. You can put up a good fight, but death is all that’s left when the fight ends.


Four: Surrender is all you have sometimes

I fought until the end — I did. The moment arrived when no fight was left in me — I could see that this was the end. You can never prepare for that — because the end is just the beginning. As mum makes her way to another dimension, I’m still here on earth, missing her, wanting to see her again someday, although I don’t know if I ever will. When you miss someone, some days can be more challenging than others. I stop when a memory or wave of grief takes over my soul. I look up at her photo, and I sometimes cry. I take myself outside for some fresh air. I learn to surrender. Life and death come to us in waves — it can happen in our youth or during old age. What I do know now, after my long and painful journey, is that sometimes we have to surrender and let hurt come and go without a fight. It’s not easy to surrender, but life takes on a new meaning when we do Submitting to what is out of your control is the highest form of bravery I know. Bravery means facing your hurt, fear and anger — and then accepting it by letting go. 

Five: You will never forget, and it will hurt sometimes

People would tell me that I’d feel better after six months to a year. Six months have passed, and although I feel better — I’m still hurting. Some days the pain is sharper than others. I have learnt that my journey is unlike anyone else’s. A parent dying of old age differs from watching one deteriorate from cancer. It’s a heartbreak occurrence like no other. Watching your parent in pain, suffering and waiting for their imminent death is beyond anyone’s scope of understanding. I will never forget, and I stop when the moment becomes overwhelming enough to trigger my emotions. Perhaps this is the journey I have to take as an individual along the pathway leading toward the end of my road. No experience is similar to another. No snowflake is the same, despite how similar they look. So, I allow the hurt to come and go as it wishes. And I’m taking it one day after another, never hoping for relief — just breathing in and out, showing gratitude for being alive. 

Six: No one ever really knows

I don’t know what happens when we die. Perhaps some had a glimpse when they passed away for a moment or two. But do we get to see the ones we love again? Who can answer that and live to tell the tale? I have shared this realisation because I wonder if I will ever see mum again. The question is always in the back of my mind, and although I don’t know the answer — I wish it were yes. The trouble is, no one knows. We don’t even know the most complex runnings of life from birth until death. These are the mysteries of the universe — unravelling them is like an endless jigsaw puzzle with pieces missing, only to keep us curious about what’s coming. I know that it’s uncertain — this thing called life. It’s time to leave afterlife complexities alone. It is what it is; the best is all we can ever do. They are spreading love, kindness and happiness now that we live and breathe, bringing happiness and contentment. It costs nothing and leaves a glow in your own heart. So, as life moves ahead and another month starts to take shape — I will continue my journey spreading kindness, compassion and surrender whilst allowing others to be themselves. Because we are all on our unique journey through the pain of life’s challenges. 

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