My mom, Norma Mae Beecham, died 3 months ago, and every day since that day, I feel big moments of grief and almost as many moments of guilt. Grief, because I miss her. Guilt, because I was not a perfect daughter or caregiver.
For the last 5 years that she lived with my family, I got more and more irritated with her negativity. I was impatient with her seeming deliberate slowness. Because she refused to allow me to hire a caregiver so that my husband and I could go away for a few days, I felt trapped and sometimes angry. We were also on opposite political pages and that didn’t help. Of course, it wasn’t always stress-filled, but there were enough times where my head spun around and mean words came out of my mouth.
On the good side, I included her in most of my social outings, including happy hour every Friday. She knew to her core that I loved her, and my family loved her. And when she was dying, as I lay in bed with her holding her hand, she said “There’s nothing better than having your daughter hold your hand when you go.”
If I had it to do over again, I would not have always been in such a rush. I would have taken time to jut sit with her each day and listen. (The operative words are sit and listen.) I would have done jigsaw puzzles or played cards with her. I would have shared newspaper clippings with her, like she shared them with me. But mostly I would have asked questions and listened.
So my task—and the task of all caregivers—is to forgive myself. And when the guilt creeps into my brain, I am choosing to replace it with one of the thousands of meaningful, happy moments spent in my life with Mom.