James Anthony Ellis
Many a time, over the latter years of my mother’s life, as she laid there barely able to talk or move, my father would be there. Feeding her. Reading to her. Asking questions. Being present and loving. Being her rock.
Though the situation was on one level tragic and sad, it was still a divine sight to see.
On some level, it made sense out of the senseless experience we have here in this dualistic reality of dense matter, where people seem to be born to wither, decline and die.
I recall for many months before she was bedridden, my mother would be sitting upright on the couch, a victim of time, space and gravity, saying of her condition: “I am just a blob. I have no purpose.”
In an odd way, such sentiments appeared logical to any mind that would consider value and worth to be found merely in what we can think, say and do.
However, in the end, this view of my father taking care of my mother would show me another reality.
Flashback – there were many a time during my childhood, when my father would appear to be oblivious to his surroundings, in his head, busy with his boxes of paperwork, the latest sports event on TV or just daydreaming at the dinner table.
Where was he? If he or anyone else knew, they weren’t letting me in on it.
Of course, I can’t speak for anyone else, my mother included, but upon reflection my take was that he was not present for those in the family, as his mind was elsewhere. No big sin, no true abuse, but it was a definitely painful experience for me, as I just wanted a pop truly with me, noticing me, asking me questions, curious as to my thoughts, wishes, dreams … and life.
Around 2010, in the beginning of my mother’s sickness, my father used to tire of her consistent redundancy in speech, even barking a bit at her out of frustration. In her onset of dementia, she would repeat statements and questions, and he would respond or answer with an undertone of agitation.
“Yes! I said yes before!”
I didn’t try to get in the middle of their relationship. Why would I? A process was in place.
A process I wouldn’t even pretend to understand.
I could only have my own observation.
And what I observed over time, over the three years before her passing, was nothing short of a transformation.
Sitting on nearby chair, leaning in calmly towards where she lay, speaking softly but with purpose:
- “Would you like some soup?”
- “Is this music on loud enough?”
- “Did you want a chocolate with this?”
It was an inspiration.
His care was so incredibly tangible, with the sweetest of context. He was the rock. He was her strength. He was so very present.
In the end, most likely unknown to her, my mother did have a purpose. She was not a blob. Her existence had meaning, even towards the end no one wanted.
She was there to receive. After years of giving and nurturing a family, she was in the position to only receive.
And the gift in that?
Making an angel of my father.
Here, he would be the one who could be so very patient, kind, generous and – perhaps most importantly – present for another. He would be there for the one who perhaps desired his presence the most.
An angel, a focused and present guardian, a pillar of strength and care – an identity he has always had deep down, and will always have … on into the legacy beyond space and time.