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Hope For Reconciliation With Family

R. S. Martin



I told a few of you--by all appearances, my mother is in the last stages of life. I just got back from visiting her in the hospital. A batch of my family were there, too. About half of my family take a non-judgmental attidude and about half seem to feel a serious need to control. It was the good half that was there today. I did not feel like an outsider. I think it helped that I could hardly find the place. It took me an hour and a half to get there. It was bus service at about its very worst. That seemed to touch a soft and sympathetic spot in their hearts and I felt like I was accepted right into their hearts. The others had hired a van to take them and I live on their way home so they gave me a ride home. My brother was responsible for this. It felt so good and perhaps I can rejoin the family.


With mom gone I think I can handle it. I tried really hard to connect with her through her glazed eyes when she had them open. She sleeps most of the time and is barely conscious. Her hand and wrist were too full of tubes for me to hold her hand but I could put my hand on her bare fore-arm. They say skin contact helps connect with a person who is so far gone. With my other hand I stroked her forehead. I told her who I am. I looked straight into her eyes and told her my name and talked to her. Her breathing rhythm changed and her mouth moved. I am sure she recognized me and was happy to see me.


Later, the nurse moved her and she let out one little yelp of pain. It was only the slightest sound but in that sound resided a lifetime of my fears and her absolute need to control her entire world. That need to control was the downfall of me. I have risen despite that control. My siblings who were there also talked to her but they did not think she recognized them. They behaved according to the cool reserve our people use. I had broken through that and disregarded what the others think. I shut them out and followed my instincts and I am sure she recognized me at the moment. I wanted her to know that even though I am an atheist and even though we had all these terrible issues, I am still her flesh and blood.


Realistically, she will probably not remember. Nor will she remember when she gets to heaven because there probably is no heaven for her (or anyone) to go to. From a realistic perspective, I think it did more for me than for her. It feels good to know that despite all our differences she seemed glad to see me and she seemed to still own me as her daughter.


For two years I've been struggling with the issues about whether or not to go to her funeral when and if it happened. Last night I got a call from one of my sisters with whom I can cut contact. She told me of mom's condition. Mom is a very tenacious person and may hang in there for some time yet. She is not "in the habit of dying." Before I got that call yesterday, I felt a really deep longing to reconnect with the Old Order Mennonites. Not go back as a member, but to reconnect relationships on the basis of who I am now. I don't drive so I didn't know how to do that.


Then I got that call and had a really good talk with my sister. For the first time in more than eight years I feel like I can perhaps attend the funeral. I will take it one step at a time. I feel like I have broken out of their "groupthink" as one person put it. That allows me to be me regardless of what people think. Not having to hear mom's controling voice will help. Dad was a fearful monster when we were kids and there were times I wished he were dead. But he had a stroke about eight years ago. That changed his personality so he is more gentle. Once in a while he still thinks he can tell us what is what, esp. when it gets to the topic of religion. But it is possible to ignore it.


That's a long-winded detailed analysis of the situation as I understand it. All I'm trying to say is that there is hope for healing even in some of the most dire situations. It is going to take a lot of energy for me to focus on being me when I am around people who think they need to fix me--and there are a LOT of those in the extended family. But there are people who accept me. And I know who I am outside of their feedback. There is hope for healing. In this case, I think reconciliation requires the removal of a key person. We cannot always plan things this way. I look forward to seeing what the family dynamics will be like with mom out of the picture. All our lives she managed to keep herself at the center of the family universe.



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