Today marks the anniversary of my Mom's birth. She painfully transitioned off this plane nineteen years ago. Hers was a life to celebrate and so I share my story with you.
To honor my Mom’s memory and to share some feelings and events you may experience yourself. Knowing you are not alone helps make any situation slightly more bearable.
Six years ago my book, Mental Illness: Consequences When the Brain Misfires, launched and hit the best sellers list immediately. I included the excruciating struggle of my mom and me trying to help her through a depression I never understood, marked by schizophrenic-like hallucinations. Or did she simply see what others did not?
What my mom saw terrified her and her reactions terrified me.
You see, I had to write that book because if I had known then what I now know (hindsight--why does it come later?) maybe I would have seen the symptoms that she, like so many elderly people and their doctors, miss.
As well as she ate, all the good water she drank and the miles of walking she did every day, paired with popularity among her friends - all that healthy lifestyle failed to keep her mind well functioning.
Her experience led me to write a book about how to prevent and reverse mental illness. I plan to release it this fall so sign up for my advance notice list. Someone you know may benefit and be spared the devastation of mental decline. Trust me - it is no fun for the caretakers either. And only those of us in the trenches on a day-to-day basis understand the stress on every level.
My mom was an amazing lady and strong female who cared for us - my brother, me, and her mom - in a time when women working outside the home just was not the thing to do.
Hey, she had no choice. My dad died young. She always did what she had to do. Let me amend that statement - she definitely had a choice. She chose self-sacrifice to give us everything.
My mom ran all three of her boss's businesses. She took out personal loans. Did you get that? My mom took out personal loans to cover payroll when insufficient income hit the company. She needed her job and she made sure it didn't disappear.
She worked ALL the time - never getting sick and never taking a vacation. Seriously - she did what she felt she had to do.
Fortunately my older brother arranged for her to take a vacation.
Only all of us knew she would never agree to miss work. So, my brother and her boss plotted for us (my brother and me) to trick her into getting in the car with us and we actually kidnapped her.
He had packed a suitcase for her as well as for each of us and hid them in the trunk of the car - out of sight. We journeyed to visit Bubby, her mom, (another extraordinary woman on my family tree) who was wintering in Florida.
When my mom realized she had been fooled she got hysterical! She did not believe us - that my brother had made arrangements for us to go away for ten days.
We had to pull off the road and let her call her boss to verify what we tried to explain.
Despite her long work hours, I remember my mom coming to my every event and every concert. I was a musician back then. And when she retired (took a lot of convincing to get her to retire) and moved south to Virginia to live near my family - she was always available for everything my kids did and to help me with anything I needed.
My kids got to grow up with a loving grandma just 1 1/2 miles down the road. They spent many weekends enjoying eating with her, going for walks, sleeping over and eating bagel breakfasts!
Those loving times benefited all three of them! And my husband and I delighted in time alone.
My mom was a happy person with a welcoming smile. Everyone knew and loved Grandma Edie! She still had her angelic voice and used to sing lots - as she did when I was growing up.
Hey, I was lucky enough to grow up before television was big. My family used to gather around the piano and sing.
One day I walked into the house and there was my mom playing and signing at the piano. Holy crow! Could she play! It was the one and only time I ever heard her play.
Thank goodness she always sang. Oh, by the way, she was a terrific dancer too. My daughter inherited her gorgeous voice and the dance talent too.
My mom and I used to sing when riding in the car. I still hear us in my heart, “‘A’ you’re adorable. ‘B’ you’re so beautiful. ‘C’ you’re a cutie full of charm…”
Hmm. That is where my daughter got it! We could not take her in the car during her first few years unless we sang the entire trip! No kidding!
My mom sang all the time - even when she didn’t know all the words to the song. I got that from her - making up my own words when I don’t know the actual lyrics. You’d be mighty surprised to learn what I thought Elton John’s songs were about!
I also sing or hum just in the course of the day while doing stuff. My mom was a pretty lovely role model in every sense of the words pretty and role model, yes?
I never heard my mom say a bad word about anyone. In that era of racial tension (the 1950s and 1960s) she was open-minded and saw people as people. Not common back then for her generation.
The remarkable thing about my mom, well one of very many, was that even though she worked long hours every day - came home for dinner and went back to work taking me along, when we were home she was with me.
Well, okay she was cleaning and doing laundry and cooking but when she wasn’t doing the stuff of living she was doing something with me. I know we spent more time together than did all my friends with stay-at-home mothers.
We played games, we played badminton, went bowling and to museums in the city. My mom nervously drove into New York City - something that she told me terrified her, yet she did it for me and never ever complained.
She and I were relieved when I got my license at sixteen so I could do all the driving - except in the city. You had to be eighteen to drive in New York City.
Interesting, don't you think...my mom ran a Kirby office most of my life. She drove into the Bronx when it moved there - terrified driving that narrow highway to W. 230th Street. And when they moved out to Mamaroneck, again she had to travel a bit.
The thing is, she let customers bring their machines for repair to the house where my brother fixed them during his teen years. There was one gentleman who was forever bringing in his Kirby for repair. It was glaringly obvious he liked my mom. And she knew it. In fact, she could have married him and had a leisurely life.
When she told me that years later I asked why she didn't make that choice.
Not surprisingly, she said she thought I would not be happy in that situation. Self sacrifice is a family trait my daughter is consciously working to end in our female line. The habit serves no one.
My mom would have been 105 today - had she not needed to leave.
Seeing the pain she lived with as no one correctly diagnosed what was wrong with her - something way too common in the care of seniors, and knowing her mental state, I really did understand why she needed to go.
In the book I go into detail, great detail, of my mom's situation as well as very real practical information to reverse and to prevent so much of the mental illnesses so common today. Perhaps more importantly, I share the devastating toll the experience took on me as her caretaker making very tough decisions. No outsider has a clue what it is like caring for a loved one with a declining mental state.
During her last days at home she told me her sisters and my dad came to see her. She said they wanted her to join them.
I know, for sure, she saw someone or something I could not see. My cats both looked in the exact same spot where she focused.
As my daughter, her boyfriend, and I sat on her bed before heading out to Hospice, suddenly my very spiritual cat let me know we needed to leave right away.
I walked into the room at Hospice just after she transitioned. Her open eyes stared at the ceiling. He mouth hung open.
I was so upset. I wanted to be with her in her final moment. I spent most of that last week with her even though she was in a coma most of the time.
I asked her to please not leave unless I was there with her. That was not her plan. My mom always protected me from anything she thought might bring me pain.
The Hospice nurse told me it was common for parents to leave when their kids were not present.
At least, after the initial pain of knowing I would never see her smile at me again, I saw a golden ball of light leave her body and rise to the ceiling. And I felt this amazing calm energy emanating from it.
I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that golden ball was my mom’s Spirit leaving her body. I knew she was happy. She was free of pain and she was at peace.
And still she lay in a coma.
Thank goodness I do very special healing work. With my loving daughter acting as a surrogate, I cleared the energy blocks of all the relationships my mom held in her Light Bodies and Chakras.
The next day my mom left - free at last.
Even now, nineteen years after she transitioned, my mom continues to smile on all of us. She comes when my kids or I need her.
While working with a colleague on one of the specialized kinesiology techniques that later grew into my healthcare practice, my mom came to visit me.
I was on the massage table and my friend was running energy on me. Suddenly a scent of flowers filled the room. I mentioned it to my friend - wondering where it came from. She told me my mom was with us.
She said my mom was over in the corner watching us. In the moment she said that I looked for her. The fragrance disappeared. My friend told me she had gone.
Some months later when I visited that friend in Milwaukee and she was again working on me (hey, I also worked on her but, after all, I was the one with the brain injury and she was a great healer. Besides, this was my mom coming to visit) suddenly I felt my friend’s hand move off my head. Another hand replaced hers.
I knew what had happened and as I reached up I touched, very clearly touched my mom’s hand. I knew my mom’s hand. I held it nearly non-stop for three months.
I can say, with total certainty, the soul, the Spirit, lives forever and participates when we call for help.
After my brain surgery I noticed my mom would let me know she came to visit by rearranging framed art work and paintings in my home. She would set them askew.
Once she moved one so much the photo by my artist friend fell out of its frame sending glass crashing to the floor. The frame, cockeyed now, still hung on the wall. Its contents had fallen.
No accidents. The photo was a sculpture’s hand freeing a dove. I think my mom wanted me to know she was free in her dimension.
There was no other explanation for what happened that night as I slept.
Usually my mom came at night to move stuff.
One day I discovered my grandfather clock, the one I latchooked and hung on my wall with all my other art, had gone haywire. The hands had moved to a very weird time.
It was not as though the hands had moved one hour forward or backward. No. Both hands had moved to very odd places on the clock face and the time I saw made zero sense.
Except I knew that was my mom letting me know she was present.
Recently, I was in the middle of a nightmare when she came to me. She rescued me by gently touching my legs telling me all was all right. Her very real touch calmed me. What a disappointment - she had gone when I opened my eyes.
Hers was a life well lived that touched everyone she met. I sure do miss her. Even when I clearly sense her presence, it just isn't the same as seeing her and holding her - and being held by her.
Know what I mean?
Come back tomorrow for more to assist your growth through the years with aging parents and less than perfect lives.
Tell us your story. The more you share the better you feel and the greater the help you are for others going though tough moments, making difficult choices.
Ali Bierman has been a relationship expert most of her life. As a wife of 32 years, mother, psychotherapist, specialized kinesiologist, ordained metaphysical minister, author, teacher, family member and friend, she brings a unique perspective to her work. Change happens instantly in Ali's world. What takes a long time, and maybe never happens for some people, is getting ready to change.
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