Watching Mom Suffer

I am in what would be called The Sandwich Generation. I am finishing raising my family while caring for my elderly parents. I do have siblings and they do assist as well, but because my life is more flexible than theirs is I am the “go to” girl.

I would like to tell you a little background, if I may about our present situation and how I have come to the place where I am watching mom suffer. She has had a Job-like experience over the past 3 years. About this time in 2005 she began to have distorted vision which I knew (from my past life in the medical field) to be a form of eye disease that causes a person to loose their central vision. One never goes completely blind, but is robbed of the ability to read, drive, and eventually see anything that makes sense because the field of vision is blacked out. Her onset of this was rapid and in both eyes. In spite of the new treatments available she quickly lost her ability to be independent. My go getter mom was forced to stop many of her activities of daily life she enjoyed so well. Gone were driving to the store, doing the bookkeeping for the household, watching television, reading the paper, baking (can’t see the cookbooks) and just about every other thing you can think of to pass the time away on your own.

She had also been some back pain that was helped by pushing or holding on to a shopping cart while walking. We also noticed she was experiencing shortness of breath that was getting progressively worse, and we could not decide if it was the back pain causing her to breathe oddly or the other way around. In the end, it was both. She was diagnosed with arthritis of the spine and emphysema. There is no cure for any of the things she suffers from. One ailment complicates the other making it impossible for her to have surgery for the back pain.

So in the past 3 years my parent’s lives (and subsequently my life) have changed dramatically. Gone are their days of square dancing, round dancing, bowling, golfing, flower planting, vacations, and mom’s cleaning the house and making meals. Life now consists of dreading to wake up with the inevitable horrible back pain that now shoots down her leg like an electric shock, waiting for the minutes to tick by until the pain medicine kicks in to take only the edge off the unrelenting pain, (can’t have too much because is slows the breathing) doctor visits, injections, and the unanswered desire for life to be the way it used to be. She cannot see, or hear very well, cannot read or do handwork; she cannot entertain because it involves coming, going, or preparations she is unable to do.

My mom has had a Job event in her life.

When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. Job 2:12-13

Thankfully, she does not have friends like Job, but a loving family that surrounds her and my dad at every opportunity. This eases some of her sense of isolation but it is always tempered by the feeling she is being a burden or stopping us from living our lives.

Her cries have often been as those of Job who in the midst of his physical torment cried out to God as he sat among the ashes scraping at his skin:

“Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, to those who long for
death that does not come,
who search for it more than for hidden treasure, who are filled
with gladness
and rejoice when they reach the grave? Why is life given to a man whose
way is hidden, whom God has hedged in? For sighing comes to me instead of food; my
groans pour out like water. What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has
happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.”

This is indeed a sorrowful time in life. I wish so badly I could fix it! This woman who was for my entire life a rock and fortress has become a child. In many ways she has become my child. I see the suffering on her face from moment to moment and yet she does not often cry out; only when the pain is beyond a level 10 which is difficult for most of us to imagine. And she still mothers and cares and desires to be whole.