Sometimes we must let go and let those we love live the lives they choose, silently and with respect for the choices they make. Respect - not agreement or admiration, but an honoring of choice - is an understanding that we can never stand squarely in another’s shoes and can never fully comprehend the complexity of the life being lived, the motivation, or the needs. What seems one way may in all confusion be another; what seems pointed and straight can be crooked and circular; what seems one color may be a conglomerate of many; in fact what “is” may not be at all.
Oh, the challenge to let go when it is one’s mother – our first opportunity of real intimacy: the first person we come to know, need, and love. The one we thrive with and die without. The one we mimic, learn from, cry with, laugh for, coo to, feed from, and touch. This woman who teaches us about love and life, about men and relationships, about personal strength and choice - the woman who teaches us most about being woman. She is our heart, our role model, our protector, our strength. Letting go is made even more difficult when she is old, frail, unsteady, undernourished.
It is so painful to watch my mother continue to choose neglect and deprivation over joyful abundance and the nourishment of her spirit, mind and body as she holds on to her life partner of more years than I care to count. She is miserable in the wake of his wrath, miserable in the absence of him. This woman who said she loves my sister and me more than life itself once again remains in an unhealthy environment as we plead for her to leave, a plea we have made since childhood. We open our lives and homes to her; we push for her to tackle the conflict differently this time – to walk away. Walk away from the pain and torment and weariness, walk into love’s embrace where nourishment awaits her. Leave the chaos and choose tranquility. Do it differently, this last chance for life where she is now standing. It is down to the finish line now – and we are the cheerleaders, dressed out with pom-poms and megaphones. We sing support, call her name, dance in animated rhythm as we chant the refrain “Come to us, where you are wanted and loved!” We cry in our pain at seeing her so frail and virtually alone in these, her last days on earth. We hold her, comfort her, caress her, support her – reminding her there is another way of living. She has a choice – either coast, either daughter, both willing to nurture her to better health and provide her with a home and a life which has promise – even at this late age. Both eager for her, both awaiting her agreement, a commitment to life and to love. Sadly neither will receive her.
How in the world did my sister and I learn from this woman to choose men who are kind and temperate, who are generous and good? Men who are loving and sensitive, men who wear integrity and honor as comfortably as the skin on their backs, who share in our lives, nurture and support us, defend and respect us – these are the men who sleep in our beds each night and kiss us each morning.
With the role model she provided how did we learn that women ARE valuable? How did we learn that husbands can and should treasure us instead of abuse and neglect? With a father who has no inclination to nurture, no disposition toward gentleness or respect, no ability to discern what another might need or want – or for that matter even care - how did we understand the role of men in a healthy partnership, the true and fair counter to our femaleness? How did we eventually find the extraordinary men we married? Perhaps we were looking for exactly what was missing in our lives – the very man we both needed and could find NO WHERE as children. If the gift of this selfish, abusive, angry, hurtful man’s presence in our lives was a passive dedication in us to find everything he was NOT, then we have much to thank him for.
Who would have thought the pain of our young lives could have brought such goodness into our later years? My beloved is the richest blessing of my life. Would he have been my husband had I been anyone else’s child?
I must allow my mother to be who she is – choose the life she feels compelled to choose, while accepting in some way that what I wish for her is simply not the life she is meant to have. I am sad that she does not have the courage to make different choices, but her life is hers, and she is not a young and inexperienced woman any longer. She has lived many years on this earth - she knows what she is doing. She sees the options in front of her, acknowledges other possibilities are available.
I can’t change her life, but I can change my own. I can make peace with her choices in life by accepting her will. This will offer me powerful freedom to live in peace with my own choice - to let her go.