I looked at the topics I had saved to write about here and most of them seemed pretty insignificant.
The past two weeks I have gone back to staying up late, sitting outside, reading, writing and watching TV. Two programs that I saw had me thinking Big Thoughts. First I watched Stephen Hawking’s Into the Universe which was followed by an episode of Curiosity on “Did God Create the Universe?”
Hearing Stephen Hawking unravel his view on the big question of who or what created the universe mixed in with my mom’s passing is a strange late night journey. It’s physics and cosmology trying to answer what philosophers and everyone else have have struggled with for thousands of years.
Hawking was also featured on the second program and after the show, there was a discussion with theological and scientific scholars. (You can watch clips from the Curiosity aftershow online.)
Hawking is clearly on the side that there is no need for a God to create the universe and therefore no reason there should be any afterlife. My mom certainly held the complete opposite views.
A few nights later, I went back to a book I had borrowed this summer - Jane Gross’s A Bittersweet Season: Caring for Our Aging Parents–and Ourselves
I had heard her interviewed on the radio and remembered that she said that aging parents often want to have conversations about aging and dying before their children are comfortable talking about it. That was true with me, though I had brought up the topic years ago when my mother thought it was much too soon. Then when she brought it up the past year, I found it too much to deal with because it was so real and possible. For me, I have been taking care of my mom and older sister since I was a young teenager because of my Dad’s early death and circumstances. But over the years, I married, had two sons and had to divide my time and energies between both families.
“…that this experience can become something other than desperate and bleak, if you let it. It really is a choice. We all know grown children who have bolted when the moment arrived. But imagining running away doesn’t make you a bad person. I fantasized, usually in the hypnagogic space between sleeping and waking, facing another day of ignorance and exhaustion, about pointing the car west and driving, driving, driving. I’m glad that I didn’t, because instead I learned what I was made of; I found my better self. I found my mother. I found my brother. But all of that came later.”
I did find my mother these past few month, but I have not found myself in that process and I have not found my sister. I find myself staring up into the night sky and down into the firepit as I sit nights outside and feel the autumn coming. Journey is the right word for all this. And the shore still seems very distant.
If you are in a similar place of caring for aging parents, Jane Gross recommends a number of organizations as invaluable for caregivers. The full list is in A Bittersweet Season, but there are ten with links online where you can also listen to her radio interview.