We’re all familiar with that timeless piece of wisdom found in Ecclesiastes:
“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.”
(Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8)
Well, I am realizing there is a time to serve and a time to refrain from serving; a time to give care and a time to let others care-give; a time to immerse myself in the health and well-being of others and a time to immerse myself in the health and well-being of self; a time to wear myself out and a time to restore myself.
Most of my friends know that I took a leave of absence from my beautiful and beloved home in Colorado to help my father in his transition into a nursing home and through the latter stages of Alzheimer’s. I’ve also been supporting my mother emotionally as she experiences life without the daily presence of her husband of fifty-six years. What has additionally changed this last week is that, sadly, my mother also had to be admitted into the nursing home – and not because she needed more care, but because the she and my father and the rest of the family are very simply running out of money.
It is sad to me that after a lifetime of working so very hard at his work as well as investing in some property, everything that had been earned has disappeared in the face of taxes, fuel costs, health insurance, and the cost of hiring caregivers. We simply had to take a bed when one was available because otherwise the money would have completely disappeared and we’d have had to wait for a Medicaid bed.
It has been a sad time in the Greb family. In addition to now supporting Mom in this painful transition into a home, we are also faced with the imminent loss of our family home – the wonderful two-story home my father built when we had outgrown the rancher. It will be falling into the hands of the bank because we’d had to get a reverse mortgage to help pay for my parents’ expenses. Everything is changing.
Meanwhile, the Universe has been conspiring. I’d been away from Colorado for seven weeks. I was missing it, but Dad’s health was so unstable that I felt I needed to stay. Suddenly, however, wonderfully, he showed tremendous improvement. In addition, my dear friend needed her car driven from Pennsylvania to Colorado. In addition, there was a huge opportunity for me to do some short-term, good-paying work in my hometown. I told my therapist friend that I found myself wondering whether I should take a short two-week break. And she was feeling strongly guided to encourage me to return to Colorado – to my home, to my work, to the place that made my heart sing.
At the time of this therapy session, Dad was feeling much better and Mom was still at home. We didn’t yet know of what was to transpire. So Betsy masterfully guided me through all the parameters. How would Dad feel about me leaving, she asked. How would you feel if he passed over while you were away? I found myself realizing that when one begins to flow from this world to the next, they begin to not care so much about what is going on in the physical world. I began to remember that his spirit could communicate with mine whether I was by his side or not. And yes, I would most definitely want to be by his side. However, I was really burned out. I was exhausted from caring for both parents for large portions of every day. I was exhausted from overseeing Dad’s care and attending to so many details and nuances. Ultimately I began to realize that maybe the world wouldn’t end if I left for two weeks. I began to entertain the notion that maybe it would not only be extremely healthy for me, but actually a nice break for the staff from my hyper-vigilance, as well as an amazing opportunity for me to learn to move into a greater place of trust. I began to realize that it might be for the highest good of not just me, but for those around me as well, if I allowed myself this break.
As I seriously entertained the idea of a short respite, I found my joy bubbling up again. Home! Mountains! Hot springs! Friends! Beauty! My own space! A palpable presence of Spirit! Nature in all its magnificent glory!
Oh oh OH! It felt so good to give myself permission to return for just a short time to a place where I knew I could restore and renew myself.
And then we got word of needing to move Mom.
I gave my dear sister the space to give Mom the painful news of her imminent and unwelcome move. (Karen is so much better at that kind of thing than me!) Afterwards, I and Mom’s caregiver were there to comfort Mom and to help her see different ways of looking at the situation. She would be closer to Dad. She would have more support, more care. She would have the opportunity to make friends, engage in more activities. We would still be going out to breakfast with the family occasionally, she could walk around town. It wasn’t a prison! And slowly, gradually, Mom began to bravely shift into a position of acceptance.
At one point, there was an opening in the conversation and I confessed to her that there was an opportunity for me to return to Colorado for two weeks to make some decent money. (I’d been virtually without income during the whole time I was in Pennsylvania supporting my parents.) To my surprise and delight, she understood. She said she would have help, she’d be okay. She gave me her blessing.
I cannot thank Mom enough for having the courage to let me go. And I’m so very grateful to Betsy, who lovingly and firmly encouraged me to consider this respite.
And so I gave myself permission. It’s okay for me to let go of managing the Universe! It’s okay for me to not be physically present for a couple of weeks. It’s okay for me to tend to myself for a couple of weeks. It’s all very much okay.
And so, right now Mom is safely ensconced in her new home and, at the moment, adjusting better than I could have hoped. And I am in the process of driving across the country. I am – very gratefully – spending the evenings and nights in motel rooms – blessedly alone, doing whatever I want or need to do. I am writing, resting, taking long hot showers. I am returning to myself.
That’s my story, friends. Thank you for listening. Blessed be.