By Lara Pickford-Gordon
As Love Endures Pt 2: Hannah (not her real name) has a volatile relationship with her mother. They get along, however, the peace is short-lived and verbal and physical abuse occurs. Her mother’s cancer diagnosis in 2017 has brought an urgency to maintain good relations and come to terms with the past. Part 1 was carried last week.
The separation that came January 1 did not last for long. Hannah indirectly learnt that her mother was unwell. A relative was informed that Hannah was not taking care of her weak and sick mother although her mother had directed her to stay away, and she had others to assist. “I did not know she was sick; she was not speaking with me,” Hannah said.
Given the dire news, she knew she had to act. When she went to the house, she found the front door lock was changed. “She had not even told me she was changing the locks knowing that I have keys to the house, and I could come there any time… so that hurt me even more. And I had to pursue with someone else to call and tell her it was unsafe to be there alone, and I needed to get a key.”
A neighbour told Hannah that her mother could not even get out of bed to prepare a meal. Hannah asked God for courage and strength to confront the situation. The intervention of an acquaintance enabled Hannah to get a key and enter the house.
“When I went in and saw the condition she was in, I had to make arrangements right away…and nobody has been there with her.” Hannah added, “I try to be light and friendly and be warm and tickle her…I think she tries sometimes to be friendly, but it would not last.”
Prior to illness, Hannah’s mother had a high work ethic. She described her mother as, “unique, proud, she is self-sacrificing to a certain extent”. She was “excellent” as a nurse but now, not an easy patient. Some days it is a “fight” to get her to treatment. She must be lifted from bed and into and out of cars in her weakened state. “Even while I am cleaning her, I still getting insults,” Hannah said.
Hannah’s mother has expressed her preference for someone else to be her primary caregiver. She said the role of caregiver is an act of love but to properly manifest “there must be willingness to receive” love. She thinks her mother may be more relaxed with the other “preferred person”.
“I have learnt that accepting rejection is also an act of love. Allowing my mother to have her desire fulfilled, that someone else becomes primary caregiver, is my act of love. This does not mean that I cannot act on the periphery for her needs to be met.”
Moving forward she is focusing on self-care and becoming strong enough so, when needed in future situations, she is able to care. “This means paying attention to my mental health, physical health, financial health and general well-being.” She has come to these insights through seeking counsel.
Hannah has released the need to be always present, doing everything for her mother. This has given her a feeling of freedom. “I release the guilt. Seeking forgiveness from God for words expressed in anger also aids in the healing process. The distance that my mother desires, previously expressed by coldness and harshness, may be necessary for healing in the relationship.”
What is love?
“I would say love is sacrifice; sacrifice because you are literally thinking of the other before yourself … every day now I try to have that conversation with myself, ‘is it about you? is it about the other person?’. It doesn’t mean you are going to let yourself be killed. There has to be level of self-care and self-love, but I think the ultimate love is when you are able to put the other person’s needs above yours…there has to be some wisdom and some balance because if you don’t recognise when you are being taken advantage of then there will be no you to care for the person.”