Once I accepted my breast cancer “event” as a messenger from my own psyche, it began to speak to me in signs, signals, people and books-all repeating the same message: forgive. I spent more than a year in psychotherapy first identifying my rage and then learning how to let it go; how to forgive my mother. I determined to make a clean sweep of the anger, rage and unforgiveness lingering within my heart before these emotions once again manifested in my body as disease.
This Great Mystery we call the Divine does indeed work in very mysterious ways. And so it was that no sooner had I discontinued chemotherapy and was poised to return to my old life, that my mother’s Alzheimer’s disease became so severe, she could no longer handle her own affairs. I now found myself in charge of both my mother and the money for which she had sacrificed our relationship. “God” certainly had one grand sense of humor.
I took on my new responsibilities with renewed anger and resentment. Apparently I hadn’t forgiven a thing. I raged at this “God” to whom I’d been praying to show me how to serve. Was this some kind of sick cosmic humor? I ultimately realized, however, that like it or not this was now my reality. I could fight it-or I could submit to what I was powerless to change. The choice was mine. So instead of making myself ill with futile resistance, I decided to be the kind of mother to this frail, childlike woman that I would want for myself, if I were in her position. Life was definitely challenging me to put my money where my spiritual mouth was; to walk the walk.
From 2009 to the summer of 2012, when I finally had to place my mother in a nursing home, I worked diligently and conscientiously on changing my attitude. The anger and resentment slowly dissipated, eventually evolving into a sense of simple, uncomplicated caring for another human being. I gained a sense of inner peace and acceptance of my life as it was. I began to sense a relationship with my mother that felt as if it extended beyond this lifetime. As if she and I were working out some ancient conflict. I made a conscious decision at that point to do whatever I was called upon to do in order to free us both.
I remember that last visit to the nursing home. Exactly four days before my mother quietly slipped from her body. As I gently pat her on the shoulder on my way out of her room, I somehow intuit that this is the last time we shall see each other. We exchange no gushing confessions of love. She looks up into my eyes. I can see the peace in hers. The deer caught in the headlights stare is gone; in its place-pure, unadulterated peace. She smiles up at me. I smile down at her, pat her on the shoulder again; and say jokingly, “You be good now. Don’t go getting into any trouble.” “Oh, Toni, she answers with a chuckle, “What kind of trouble can I get into in this place?”
Funny, it took my mother’s complete departure from this realm for us to finally become friends. I speak to her almost daily now and although I cannot hear her responses with my human ears, something happens in my heart. First it grows still and then it is filled with a flood of emotion that pours down my cheeks in an avalanche of tears. I sense that we are now O.K. with each other. She’s joined my Team of Ancestors. They are “on the other side” cheering for me and mine.
So, to you, my mother and the rest of our clan which art in Heaven, I say, thank you. I am now wide awake, listening intently within and following your wise guidance in all that I think, say and do.
Rest in peace, my mother. Rest in peace. All is forgiven. We are free.
Do watch for my next article: Having the Courage to Say NO to Remaining Chemo and Further Breast Cancer Treatment.