I spent the week moving my mom into a new apartment. From an academic standpoint, it was all wrong. But in real life, it was so right.
In my Master's program for Gerontology, I had two focus areas: sexuality and aging; and death/dying/grief. I know a great deal about the grief process and how to work through it.
For years, when teaching death and dying, I have given the "party line".......research shows that grieving people, especially elderly people, should NOT make any major decisions or moves for 6 months to a year after a spouse's death. Research shows that often, those decisions, made in the middle of emotional angst, are regretted.
My dad has been gone now for 2-and-a-half months. And my mom decided to move. On nearly every level, this might have felt like a knee-jerk decision, and one that we should have cautioned against. But it felt so very right.
Mom had wanted to be on first floor of her complex from the start, but their name came up on the waiting list for an opening on second floor. She had never stopped wanting to be on the first floor. It was easier to walk down to the dining room and she was tired of elevators. The first floor units were designed with 15-foot ceilings, so they feel incredibly spacious.
A unit became available 2 weeks ago, and though it is smaller, it was love-at-first-sight. Their apartment had a north exposure, faced an industrial (and loud) air conditioner, and was dark. Mom's new place has a southern exposure with light pouring through large windows and a patio, and overlooks the lawn with pine trees!
I brought Sam's bed for her----which he has used for 17 years and doesn't even know yet that I removed from his room----but was once Mom and Dad's first bed when they married. I brought the matching bedside table they used. I brought the quilt that Grama had cross-stitched and quilted for me when I was 7 and used my whole childhood. Mom was touched to tears to walk in and see "her" old bed and her mom's handiwork surrounding her. It was like going home to Jamestown.
My brother Chris and I had a corner of items left in the upstairs apartment to comb through and when we went up to take those last few things out and lock the old doors, we both said how almost suffocating it felt in there. There was sadness living in the walls. When you looked into the bedroom, you felt Dad's pain and suffering. It became a place of isolation and grief for Mom (and really, for us all, as we provided the caregiving). Chris and I could not leave quickly enough and turn in the key.
For a 94-year-old to choose and make this move and deal with re-learning where things are in each drawer and cupboard and re-orient herself in the closets is cause for applause. She is meeting delightful women down on first floor.....many widows.....and she is loving sitting and looking at the trees and drinking in the sunshine. The place makes all of us simply smile. When you walk in, there is a new freedom, a new light and airy feeling in your soul. It is a new start.
I have my first PET scan this week since having radiation in September, trying and failing a new chemo drug, and being completely off all medical intervention for one month. I have no idea what is happening in my body. We will know the results on Friday. My faith is unchanged in healing. With every scan, I wait to hear the words, "No evidence of cancer."