At a personal development seminar 8 years ago I was asked ‘what is it that keeps you awake at night’. The first thought that went through my mind and brought tears to my eyes was ‘who will look after mum and dad if they fall sick’. This though never left my mind.
We are three siblings, and at that time, we were living in three different corners of the world. Our parents were where they so wanted to be in their twilight years; close to their brothers, sisters, cousins and other relatives. I was divorced, living and working in New Zealand with a daughter in university, and many bills to pay. My sisters were happily married with children and careers of their own.
My mother looked after my father who was wheel-chair bound and needed full-time care. She was a brave, dedicated woman who never left her husband’s side. Not even for a short break. I was most like my mother from among the three sisters. We thought alike, we looked alike and we had similar skills and talents, but I was very strong headed and didn’t like being told by my mother how to live my life. We had a very strong love-hate relationship.
Time went by and I immigrated to the US. I had been living in New York for just over a year when I got a call from my sister saying Mother had been diagnosed with breast, liver and brain cancer with 3 – 6 months to live. I didn’t have to think long to realize I was the only one of the three who was free to leave what I was doing to go and take care of our parents. Free, apart from a mortgage that hung over my head like Democles sword. Fortunately, my sisters offered to support me with financial assistance to cover my mortgage. I did struggle, if only for a split second, wondering whether I was doing the right thing in going to live with my mother, afraid of what might transpire. Nevertheless, I left within 10 days and never looked back for a moment to wonder whether I had made the right choice.
My mother passed away gracefully less than 5 months later. I stayed and looked after my father till he passed away 15 months after her. It was only later that it struck me that I had been able to do what I had to do to take care of my parents, a thought that had kept me awake for many nights, for many years, without realizing that is what had driven me all along.
I now sleep peacefully knowing I have cared for my family, made the right choices and fulfilled my responsibility as a child of two incredible parents who did the best they could for me. I believe my children are richer for seeing their grandparents being treated with love and respect.