The following is a guest post written and submitted by Jeannine O’Neil.
One day, I was listening to music on YouTube and Lady Gaga’s song “The Cure” popped up. I stopped and listened to the words.
“If I can’t find the cure, I’ll
I’ll fix you with my love
No matter what you know, I’ll
I’ll fix you with my love
And if you say you’re okay
I’m gonna heal you anyway
Promise I’ll always be there
Promise I’ll be the cure.”
If this sounds familiar, Lauren talked about it in her last blog post here.
I knew Lady Gaga’s story. She had a close friend and colleague who passed away from cancer at a very young age. I didn’t realize she wrote a song about the experience. Suddenly, the unattainable pop star was human. She was also helpless against a monster of a disease, taking her loved one away, slowly and painfully. Immediately, it became one of my caregiver anthem songs. Whenever I felt helpless, I would play this song, often on repeat.
Somehow the song gave me strength, purpose, and control of the situation. Yes, I was losing my mother a little bit every day and it was so painful to live through. When it became impossible to take care of her and when I feared for her and my own safety, we admitted her into a nursing home.
When that day came the dynamic shifted dramatically. As one of the Hospice nurses so eloquently put it, “We will take care of her now. Your role has changed. It is now your job to focus on being her daughter and being a family again.” These words helped me adjust to the shift in responsibilities and the latest norm that we had to adjust to. My caregiver role wasn’t being taken away. I wasn’t being fired. I just needed to adapt to my original role as her daughter again.
So, I would go and visit Mom once a day or sometimes every other day. It was so much harder to find the strength and courage to visit her, than to just deal with the day-to-day when she lived at home. Now I had a choice. I could decide which point of my day would be ruined by despair and sadness that would overcome me. And even worse, have internal struggles and conversations, making up excuses on the reasons not to go. Knowing full well that if I didn’t, I would feel guilty and the day would still be ruined. A dear friend shared with me, “Someday, you won’t be able to go and see her. Do it now so you don’t have regrets.” So, I would put on my big girl pants with this thought in my mind. I would muster up all the courage I had. I would ignore the excuses flooding my brain. I would put on my shoes, climb in the car and give myself a pep talk to prepare myself for what I would experience that day. Knowing as soon as I walked out of those doors to return home, my day would still be ruined.
But one of the things that was so frustrating to me was that I would battle these internal feelings and force myself to show up, only to find my mother sleeping. It didn’t matter when I went, unless it was lunch, she would be napping. All that internal work and struggle to get there and for what? I would think, “Does she even know I am here?” The answer is yes, she did. But we will get to that after.
One day, I talked to another Hospice nurse about this and how it bothered me. She told me, “The next time this happens, go to the front desk, ask for some hand cream and just hold her hands and massage them.” Once again, simple advice that made sense, and I would never have thought of this. I cannot tell you how much this helped. Even if she was sleeping, at some level I was caring for her and in some way, it was giving us both peace. Being the type A, overachiever daughter that I am, I took it one step further and would send her love in those moments.
About seven months prior to Mom going into the nursing home, I started going to restorative yoga. This was my self-care ritual. Through practicing yoga, I discovered I could feel energy in my own body and I could feel others’ energy, as well.
Now when I would go see Mom and sit while she slept, I would practice my best self-taught Reiki on her. I didn’t know if I was doing it right, but something just told me to imagine pure white light at my core, feel it deep down, move the energy to my arm, and send it to her through my touch. Mom would always have muscle twitches and they told us this was the medicine, but she seemed like she would twitch more at these moments. I was really nervous about doing this because I am not a licensed Reiki practitioner. The last thing I wanted to do was send bad energy her way. My pep talks in the car shifted to a more positive mindset. If she was going to feel my energy, then she was going to get the best of what I had to give.
The time came for Mom to pass on and immediately, I felt the love come back. The moment she passed, I felt warm tingles down my spine, like an energetic hug coming from the other side. Then, the phone rang and I received the news. I immediately felt peace and love for her and our family, almost as if it was a river of warm, white light, just flowing through my veins. But it wasn’t just on the inside; I felt peace around me, too. Everything was quiet and peaceful. I believe she was sending the love back to me. And this feeling of peacefulness hung around for a while.
A few weeks after Mom passed, and after I experienced amazing moments knowing she was with me, I went to a psychic to “talk” to Mom. One of the things dementia robs you of is the simple moments you have with your loved one. I missed her motherly advice and hearing what she had to say about my life, hence my visit to the psychic. The things that came through send chills down my spine even to this day. Mom said, “When I was weak, you made me strong.” She went on to say, “As hard as this was, I felt your love, and it made it easier for me. It helped me through.”
I share this with those who are struggling, as they watch their loved ones deteriorate before their eyes, wondering if what they are doing is enough. Yes, there is going to be the human feeling of helplessness of the present moment that comes with the disease. Just focus on sending love through. And you don’t need to sit and picture white energetic light either. Saying prayers, holding and massaging hands, whatever works for you. I promise you, your loved ones know the love and sacrifice you are giving and making for them. They are so appreciative of it, even if they can’t show it. And when they can, it is going to be truly magical for you in your healing.
Don’t get me wrong, there is pain and sadness, but it doesn’t feel as extreme for me. Perhaps, I prepared myself in our session or perhaps, she is just sending the love back to me.
See Jeannine’s previous post about finding peace after her mom’s death here.