A Moment in Time
By Sue A. Fairchild
“I don’t want to go. I can’t do this.” My mother leans over the kitchen island, tears filling her eyes, and struggling for breath as I wait patiently for this all-too-common moment to pass.
It’s hard for her to breathe. She’s had COPD/Emphysema for over thirty years, and the disease is now Stage 4. She doesn’t like to go anywhere—it’s difficult to go anywhere—but we must. Doctors insist we come in for appointments. Life continues.
I give her another minute to recover and then move toward the door. I feel callous to some extent, but I cannot do anything to help her breathe—I can only try to get her to the appointment as painlessly as possible. I try to be patient.
When she begins to move, I grab her oxygen tank and we head to the car. We’re running late because there is no timing how long these self-defeating moments might last for her, but now I’m simply focused on completing our task.
As I drive, I’m considering where we’ll park. There is handicapped parking but it’s always full. I can drop her off at the front entrance, but then she must maneuver on her own until I can get back to her. I hate leaving her alone. The hospital attendants often look at me like I’m unfeeling or don’t care about her pain. But what can I do? I am tasked with driving, parking—most often in a spot far from where I need to be—racing back from the parking lot which is a good mile away, finding where my mother has wandered to, guiding the wheelchair she’ll be in, and finding the doctor’s office they keep moving every year or so.
Once inside, I make sure she has her insurance cards and money and listen to the doctor’s recommendations and concerns. I’ve learned more about pulmonary disease than I ever thought I would in my lifetime. I feel like I could treat some newer patients. During all this I’m hyper aware to not touch too many things due to the germs that could potentially kill my mother. While we wait, I check her oxygen tank to ensure it’s still full and that the oxygen level is at the correct dose.
Is she struggling for breath more than usual? Does she need anything?
Sometimes she asks for Chapstick or a tissue or for the time. I carry my own purse, hers, her oxygen tank, coats, and maneuver the wheelchair. I could use five hands.
While I attempt to get in and out without too much strain on her, she concentrates on breathing. She focuses on the fact she can’t do much by herself anymore. She thinks she is a burden to her family. That life would be better without her in it.
After the appointment, we reverse the situation with the parking, driving scenario until we return home, mentally and physically exhausted. I’m happy it is over and satisfied I returned her home, not much worse for the wear. I can see the relief on her face, and I know my sleep will be extra good tonight.
Caring for a loved one is a difficult and daunting task, but she would do and has done the same for me when I could not. When my little brain didn’t know how to walk myself to the bathroom, she changed my dirty diapers. When I couldn’t hold a fork, she fed me. She has driven me to countless doctor appointments. When I failed at a job and a relationship, she took me back into her home.
I am privileged to have her in my life. Happy to be able to help her. Content to learn about her condition. Blessed for this struggle and all that comes with it. Without it, I might not appreciate life as I do. I might not have clung to Christ as I do.
Anything can be a struggle, but I choose to see the good. I choose to CHOOSE the good, the joy, the happiness within every hard moment. And when the hard times pass, I enjoy the peace and rest before the next.