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Launching Lala, and Me
Guest post by Terry Perkins Mitman
Yesterday was three years since Mom died. It's been a nostalgic month, with Dad and
Grammy's birthdays to start, followed by Mother Nature's plentiful reminders of Mom's last stretch—bright sun, pounding surf, brisk winds, and yellow leaves, everywhere I turn.
To Dad's "When my number's up, fill my dinghy up with gin and push me out to sea" came Mom's "living is for living," which meant a reluctance to push off when there was still fun to be had, as evidenced by the friendships she formed with every caregiver who came through our door. While Dad died true to form, so did Mom, who moved on, me and the animals at her side, the sun just breaking the horizon, reminiscent of Katherine Tynan Hinkson's Shades Are Up, a poem Mom had chosen for us to share at her funeral.
As I work this month with publishing consultant Lindy, finishing the last details of my
caregiving story, it's been hard to finalize, to let go, for fear of making a mistake, choosing the wrong words, misrepresenting or over-stepping. I'm sure the timing is no coincidence.
"There are times when we know we should move but we don't even know how to push our boat out from the shoreline on which we are marooned...Part of our ability to go is to understand what we're missing..." says David Whyte in Session 3 of his September 2022 Series: Crossing the Unknown Sea, Life and Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity. While I'm not sure what I'm missing, I am curious where all this time and energy freed up will land me next.
This morning, in the early hours, I recall Dr. Kristin Neff's self-compassion practice, which my advisor Katie at the Chaplaincy Institute of Maine taught me in the days following Mom's death:
“This is a moment of suffering.”
I feel stressed about finalizing Living Is for Living and about being so vulnerable.
“Suffering is a part of life.”
Other people feel stressed too, on the verge of putting themselves out there in significant ways. I lay my hands on my heart.
“May I be kind to myself”
I love and accept myself unconditionally. I've got this. It's time to shove off. Let's do this.
From the author:
Raised in Maine, graduated from Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School, I had spent the better part of thirty years parenting our kids in Wisconsin. In 2016, in the midst of their leaving the nest, my mother moved in with us from Maine, leading to precious time and daily opportunities I had never anticipated. I learned, in part by trial and error, how to give care to an elder with Alzheimer's disease and other health challenges, while also walking with our kids into adulthood. A year and a half after my mother died, our nest empty for the first time, I was ordained an Interfaith Minister by the Chaplaincy Institute of Maine. I have come to believe that sharing my caregiving journey is one of the ways I am called to chaplain. So, in November 2022, I self-published Living Is for Living: A Caregiver's Story. “Launching Lala, and Me” is a reflection I wrote in the last stages of this process.
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