Tag Archives: mother and daughter

Casting Off

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mother portrait

A new cycle was beginning.

Jean, our hospice nurse, spent time examining mother. She spoke with confidence and gentleness to my mother. Everything had changed. Since the episode a night earlier, Mother was now too weak to leave her bed. She was confined by her own weakness. Her world began to change. Only days earlier, she had sat in her wheel chair, eaten a normal meal and laughed with us in another room. That was to be her last foray outside of her bedroom and her last burst of energy. Everything was shrinking – her appetite, her mobility, and her own body. But her mind was still quite acute. There was no way I was giving up on her. I still thought she and I could get her through this, despite what the doctors and hospice said.

After Jean took time to get acquainted with Mother, she asked all of us to join her in another room. The mood was sombre as we listened intently. Now we were in the world of hospice, a very foreign country to all of us. Already installed in Mother’s room was the humming oxygen machine to assist her breathing when needed. We had refused bringing in a hospital bed, wanting mother to be in her own usual bed.

Jean explained what it meant to have palliative care. She showed us the powerful drugs, like morphine and lorazepam (for anxiety) that would be available for Mother to help ease her through the process. Luckily, Mom was not in pain, and we were grateful for this. Jean warned us that we should not count on our memory to remember when and how much medication Mother was given. We should have a journal. My brother, the ever organized and with a Navy pilot thoroughness, prepared the journal for us.

I made the decision immediately that I would be the only one to give Mother the heavy drugs. I was still her protector and wanted to prevent her from being drugged unnecessarily. Then we learned of the array of other hospice workers who would be available to help. Ever polite and grateful, we walked Jean to the door, thanking her along the way.

When the door closed, we stood stunned but coping. Bill and Judy would soon be returning back home, but they knew they would never again hear Mother’s cheery voice or see her smile. Each took private time with her, holding back tears as best they could until they left the room. They also knew that this would be difficult for Richard and for me and asked us to call whenever we needed help, no matter the time of day or night.

The four of us talked as Mother rested, still with her ever faithful Siamese cat by her side. We agreed on the plans for the funeral and who would be called in Ann Arbor. This would be the key part bill and Judy would play as we held vigil. As we talked, Judy continued knitting the pretty pink afghan she had been making for Mother as a Christmas gift. The afghan was only partially made.

On the morning that Bill and Judy departed, I stood in the kitchen alone with my brother. He said, “Judy cast off the afghan last night and is leaving it for mother just as it is.” She cast off, a knitting term that was a kind of closure on the item being made. Casting off is also letting the ship or boat be free to go out to sea. Mother was casting off her life as she knew it, and we were with her. The destination seemed certain, but the final journey was not yet charted. That was to be revealed to all of us, along with the ethereal lessons and miracles.

Judy left the afghan draped over Mother’s shoulders as she laid in bed. I tried to keep it there as much as I could, placing it to warm her neck. It was a parting gift made with love. At the time Mom took her last breath, that pink afghan was still warming her. But then, Mother had cast off permanently. She was sailing through clear and vibrant seas, and free at last. Soon she would bring us along.

Thanks Giving: Joyous Food for the Spirit

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       In a recent conversation with a friend, I reflected on my love of cooking.  I said that, if I had a free moment to relax, it would likely be with poring over a recipe or preparing a special meal.  In my mind, I would conjure the process of working in my kitchen preparing something that will nurture and nourish myself and those around me.  I can feel my heart open and a joyousness emerges as I think of the fireplace crackling with warmth, classical music or chants , wafting through the room, a fragrant candle with the hint of apples and pumpkin, and me, chopping and mixing up a blend of home cooked kindness.  This is, in fact, how it is in my Thanksgiving kitchen.

      As I set about to take various ingredients and turn them into food to offer family and guests, I never feel alone.  Instead, my kitchen is surrounded by memories and traditions.  It brims with remembrances of past holidays, generations of those family and friends past and present, of aromas and tables set with foods popular during the time they were offered.  Food provides a sense of community (of communing together) and connecting in ways that only food can evoke.

      I savor a  memory of my mother baking hundreds of Christmas cookies that she gave out to eager recipients each year — everyone from family and neighbors to the post man and the man who took care of her car.  My mother learned cooking, sewing, and other domestic skills from her own mother.  She, in turn, taught them to her eager daughter.  I knew that I was learning a skill but I was also learning a more important lesson. It was a lesson about how to share love with others.  Then, as my mother reached into her late nineties and lived with my husband and me, we prepared many of those same Christmas cookies.  She had grown too weak and fragile to stand at the counter, mixing heavy dough in big bowls. Under her watchful eye and taking her advice, we took the cookies  from the oven and offered them to her for the true taste test. Every morsel was an act of love.

      Though I did not know it then, the energy and attitude of the cook goes into the food itself.  Mixing dough, mashing potatoes, making the sauces — whatever the dish — it becomes infused with the predominant attitudes of the one cooking.  So cooking with attention to attitude is important.  Maybe even offering a prayer or affirmation as cooking commences is a kind gesture in much the same way as offering thanks for the food set on the table.

      Food and eating as a group has traditions that stretch back into the roots of our humanity and are shared in all cultures.  The “communion,” in religious ritual, brings like-minded people together in praise and commonality — perhaps even in rapture.  It is no mistake that food plays such a central role in all the important ceremonies of life.  Think of holidays (holy days) of all persuasions, weddings, anniversaries, funerals. 

      So it is with much love that I approach the preparation of Thanksgiving dinner.  I will offer a prayer of thanks giving for an abundant sense of love, for all in our nation, and in the world, for concern for those without family and home, for those present and past.  And, especially, to my mother, in thankfulness for the lessons she taught me all those years ago and into this very day.

      Happy Thanksgiving to one and all.  You don’t even have to live in a country where Thanksgiving is celebrated each year, you can make EVERY day one of thanks giving.

With love and namaste from Deanne

For more thoughts, go to www.deannemincer.com and to http://deannemincer@wordpress.com