It has been 469 days since T's mother suffered a stroke in the aftermath of a surgical procedure to clear blockages in her carotid artery. In the very early days following the stroke, things seemed very grim and very dire, and we lived minute to minute -- expecting that we would lose her at any time. In what came to seem a day-by-day series of big and small miracles, Mom pulled through the toughest times and came back to be with us all for these months.
And so, today, as we observe the Thanksgiving holiday once more, we are all grateful for her presence in our lives. But for me, there is more than just gratitude. I find that, as I contemplate the battle she has waged to just live with us and for us, I am humbled and awed by the strength and determination and kindness and love that she embodies.
I have not been optimistic as we've traveled this path. On more than one occasion I've believed we were at the end. Sometimes, as I've watched the pain and the suffering and the struggle, I've felt (in my secret heart) that it might have just been better if Mom had managed to "get away." I have surely come to be convinced that I wouldn't want to live the sort of life that Eleanor has had to endure through all these months -- tethered to oxygen around the clock, mostly confined to her home and her chair, unable to communicate clearly, unable to read, severely limited in terms of mobility, no longer able to enjoy her active social life with friends and family.
And yet ... Even my cynical soul has been touched by the pure and simple joy that Mom brings to her life and her days. She relishes every simple pleasure -- chocolate brownies, and seeing the latest Harry Potter movie with her grandchildren, and watching the parade of costumed little ones on Halloween, and watching a football game with all of us. If she mourns those things that are forever gone from her life, there is no sign of it. If she worries about what is to come, if there is fear or anxiety or a sense of wishing for some other reality, there is no sign of it.
It is the lesson for me from this year: judge less and enjoy more. Grieve less and enjoy more. Worry less and enjoy more. Spend less time wishing for what is not and spend more time enjoying what is.
So. Here we are at Thanksgiving, and Eleanor's Santa collection has been, once again, taken out of the boxes and set up all around her home. We have had so many more days to enjoy her than we once believed we'd be given. I do not know how many more days we have with this lady who has come to be "Mom" for me, but I am so grateful for what has been, for what is.