Monday, May 28, 2012


"Compassion" was one of the Angel Cards I picked out of the pack this morning (as is my habit - once a week). How appropriate, since I've been almost overwhelmed by compassion for my Mom this past week.
Compassion: sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it. (The Free Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)
Compassion: a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. (
Both of these are good definitions, and awfully similar to each other, but I like the first one more. Mom has not been stricken by any immediate bad luck falling her way, unless you consider moving through her 89th year of life qualifies as a misfortune. Don't we all wish for a long life for ourselves and those we love? Mom has what we all are hoping for; no sadness in that.

The circumstances of Mom's life in general are fairly enviable. She is healthy, by all her doctors' reports, lives in her own home, and has a part time aide and two devoted adult children looking after her well-being. And yet compassion wells up when I hear the sad sound wavering through her voice during our daily phone conversations. And I feel frustrated and helpless, as does my brother who lives right there with her. There's nothing we can do to alleviate the kind of pain Mom is experiencing. It's not based on being "stricken by misfortune",  it's "only" what's missing that is pulling her down.

What's missing from Mom's life no one can replace. Her youth. Her vigor. My Dad, her partner of sixty-five years, who died in January 2011, and whose 91st birthday would be celebrated June 13. He was her best friend and confidante, her right hand man, the being that filled the house with presence, even on days when they sat in separate rooms doing their own things. No son downstairs or daughter calling every day can keep her from falling into the void on the other side of her bed at night.

Mom's two sisters and brothers-in-law have been laid to rest. Many of her friends are in the ground as well, or too incapacitated to be social anymore. Mom's biggest accomplishment is her biggest challenge: she's the last one standing. Neither the crossword puzzles nor the novels she reads voraciously can provide sufficient diversion from that gnawing solitude.

I'm a "get into action and fix it" person, and so I encourage her to talk about her feelings; I do the research on senior centers and push her to take baby steps in those directions. But, while my logical mind realizes there's nothing more I can do, my "sympathetic consciousness" remains an eerily similar gnawing - not guilt, but none the less a nagging desire to instantly drain the sadness from my mother's life.

I never had a daughter, but this clearly qualifies as "payback". There's no doubt in my mind that Mom suffered the same compassion when I failed my first driver's test or my teenage heart was broken. What goes around, comes around. That's life, that's family, that's the love that evokes compassion.

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