“How often in our world we miss the beauty of Beingness. Through whom your Mum is Being – not words or actions –  she is impacting others. What if THIS time was actually the biggest gift of her life for her own soul and the soul of others?”

As the nursing sister wheeled Mum away, wrapped up in her soft jade blanket to protect her against the unusually chilly day in the midst of our Lowveld summer heat, she spontaneously bent down and kissed Mum on the top of her head. I thought I was seeing things, but I wasn’t. The usually grumpy and morose nursing sister at Mum’s old age home had actually kissed my mother. Without saying a word or even looking my way, she pushed the wheelchair inside. My strictly controlled visit outside the building, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, was over.

We often have a very one-dimensional relationship with our parents. We don’t see them as anything other than parents. We don’t think about their lives outside of their children, their hopes and dreams. I remember when my Dad died 20 years ago and we had a celebration of his life at his Bowling Club in the town where I grew up. Dad loved his bowls, played regularly and was an active Committee member. I know I am my father’s daughter as I have spent time on so many committees, taking minutes and “getting things done”. Forever the organizer. Just like my Dad.

Amidst the laughter and chatter as the drinks flowed and stories of “George” bounced around the room, an Indian man in his smart Benoni Bowling Club blazer came up to me. After offering his condolences he pointed to the BBC emblem on the blazer. “You know this was your Dad’s blazer?” I told him I didn’t. “When I joined he was so kind to me. He went out of his way to make me feel welcome and introduce me to the other members. As the only Indian it wasn’t easy, but he helped smooth the path. He spent time teaching me how to play. When your parents moved away he donated his blazer to me. And now I have something to remember him by. I’ll never forget what he did for me, his kindness.”

I felt the tears well. I hadn’t had the easiest of relationships with my Dad, 

my life hadn’t quite followed the dreams he had for me. We were often at odds. To hear about an aspect of him I knew nothing about was so special. It helped me to see Dad in a softer light.

Mum moved into an old age home near where I live 18 months ago. It’s been hard watching the deterioration of someone who gave birth to you. I don’t know what happened to my strong, capable mother who ran our home, cooked brilliant Sunday roast lunches and loved crossword puzzles.

85 years of age, I can see tiredness in her eyes, the life weariness. A stroke robbed her of speech a few years ago and now all she does is laugh and speak goobledegook. It’s very endearing actually. Very childlike. I now know that when she understands something I tell her, she laughs. But she also cries a lot and it’s frustrating to watch and not know what’s causing the tears. The staff at the home are amazing and the nurses love her. I notice how often they touch her. A hug, holding her hand, stroking her arm.

I have been incredibly stressed at what I perceive as my mother’s sad “existence”. Literally waiting to die. Day in, day out, same old same old. In that moment, I think I was given a glimpse beyond the body into the soul, and my Mother’s journey. In that moment I realised that my Mum, who cannot converse, carries something that touches people.

It’s like all the resentment, the malice, the selfishness, the unhappiness that I’ve known of her have all disappeared and what’s been left is just Love. She doesn’t consciously do it, but she is just so open in her simple way that others respond to it. Suddenly it all made so much more sense – looking beyond the body.

Such a profound, almost sacred, moment in an ordinary setting. It doesn’t take away the unhappiness she feels at time, nor my wish that she could let go and be free, but it gave me a glimpse into something deeper. That actually she is “doing” something in the space around her. Something that made an unhappy person bend down and kiss her on the head. Soul touching soul.

I shared this story with a close friend and her reply was “How often in our world we miss the beauty of Beingness. Through whom your Mum is Being – not words or actions –  she is impacting others. What if THIS time was actually the biggest gift of her life for her own soul and the soul of others?”

In some strange way this has brought me a sense of peace. I don’t know how much longer Mum has left. The home has gone back into full lockdown so no visits and she can’t talk on the phone.

But I know she is there, spreading the light in her own unique, funny, and gentle way.

Di Atherton

Author Di Atherton

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