Lots of cards, presents and phone calls will be made on Mother's Day. I cannot cite any scientific data, but I would bet that when it comes to the most sentimentally mushy day of the year Mother's Day may even surpass Valentine's Day. (Not everyone has a Valentine, but EVERYBODY has a mom!) What do you do for Mother's Day?
Logging into Facebook on Mother's Day I was greeted by post after post of friends praising their mothers. I naturally thought of my mother and how she struggled with even the most basic aspects of mothering. For my mother, mental illness and alcoholism made mothering difficult. She did her best, but her best was not very good in the end. I then thought of others who have moms and about their relationships. My thoughts turned to two long standing patients for whom Mother's Day brings different struggles. I will call them L and S.
L's mom is a woman who loves to laugh and sing, a devoted wife and mother. She is still alive, but much of who she is has been lost. She lives in a facility separate from her husband, sharing a room with a stranger. Basic bodily functions are becoming hard to control and continence is an issue. She can no longer care for herself. She recognizes family members, but quickly forgets all recent events. L remains devoted. She visits her mom regularly and patiently and consistently advocates for her, making sure all of her needs are met even though her mom will not likely remember the part L played in meeting them.
S's mom still lives at home with her. Her mom is one of the funniest ladies I have met. She always brings smiles with her into the office. She remains positive in spite of severe back pain from a narrowed spinal column that compresses her spine. She has a hard time communicating the specific nature of her pain, so she has suffered for a long time.
In addition to her back pain, she has severe anxiety disorder. She gets extremely frightened at night and can only be calmed by the presence of S by her side. What can S do? She stays with her mom every night, sharing a bed with her, sacrificing some of her sleep to comfort her mom.
While the two moms do not know one another, they have much in common. They both suffer from Alzheimer's Disease. They did nothing to bring on the disease and there is nothing they can do to stop it. It is slowly taking them away from their loved ones, making every day a struggle. They are also blessed with devoted daughters who truly understand how to say “Thank You” to a mom. The greatest gift anyone can give to their mother is their love and their time.
L and S understand the preciousness of every moment they share with their mothers. More than anyone they know how quickly those we love can be lost. They also live the truth that mothers need to be thanked and loved every day of their lives, for we can never know how many days remain.
This Mother's Day, let's make a pledge to give as much love and time to our moms as we can. There is no greater gift.