A Long Journey Back Home
By Rose Raintree

As an RN, I have counseled many individuals and  families on the various emotions that erupt in your interactions with your families and what those relationships evoke within us. I worked in Mental Health and as a professional nurse had many answers for people walking a difficult road of not only dealing with sometimes the strain of those close relationships, but also being placed in a caregiving role. But not until I moved back to Washington from Georgia in 2001, when my own mother was diagnosed with bladder cancer and was forced to deal with emotions long thought to be buried and put away, did I really find on a personal note how difficult this can be to find that these emotions are still there, the buttons can still be pushed, and yet they must  be dealt with to enable yourself to be the loving caregiver that is so desperately necessary. My mother passed away after her long and courageous journey on October 14, 2005, but I am so thankful for the opportunity to walk that walk with her. It gave so much needed healing for myself, my mother and my sister and gave me a perspective that I would have never gained without taking on this challenge. It has made me a better nurse, woman, parent, friend, and counselor, and changed my perspective forever on the importance of having support. 

During this journey I found that those same buttons that our loved ones often know to push were still there. Yet now with her fragile state it was necessary for me to find a way to deal with this in a way that would allow me to provide the love and necessary care to a mother who, for most of my life, found it difficult to love me in a way that was positive. And boy did I find at times that I failed miserably, and would go home feeling like “I just can’t do this.” But with the support of many who would encourage me and give me rest and my own relationship with God, I was able to do it. As the journey came to an end, my mother and I shared some very special and endearing moments that will be held in my heart all the days of my life.  She made it her goal in those last months to make up for years of neglect in showing her love for her daughters  in every possible way before she left to go home.

But it was one of the most difficult journeys I have ever walked. During that time I found it essential that I be honest with myself, and with my mother in a loving way, but to draw boundaries in such a way to ensure that she would receive the best of my care, all the while caring for myself.

After she was gone, I went through times of  wishing I had done this, or said that, but ultimately I know that I gave every bit of effort and love I had to give to enable her journey and death to be the best it could possibly be. There are no recriminations or guilt or sorrow. But one thing I learned through this that my nursing did not prepare me for is that when you take this journey, you need support of those around you; also you need to take care of yourself and not feel guilty for doing so. You get up each day and say I will do my best and lay down each night and sleep peacefully knowing you have done just that. Whether your loved one sees, knows or appreciates what you do, remember it is only you and your assessment that really matters. As long as you know you have done your best, you have nothing to feel guilty about.

My journey with my mother was a myriad of emotions including laughter, sorrow, fun, agony, pain, anger and love. In the end, the thing that stood out above all the others was the love; love for my mother and a new love and respect for myself knowing that I accepted the challenge, gave it my best and provided the essentials of the support and care my mother needed in those last months. In the end that is what really matters. So as you take this journey, keep in mind you can only give what you have to give and if you do not first give yourself permission to take care of you, then you will soon give out. 

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