The letter below is from a distant relative by marriage who shared part of her faith journey with me as a response to some of the issues I have been dealing with in regard to my mother. She shone light into my life, and so is a guiding star.
I would like to share a bit of my story with my mother, and how God redeemed my pain.
As a young adult, I, my father, and once, my parents and 3 out of the 4 of us siblings, worked with a gifted family and individual therapist who said our family was “enmeshed,” that while we had a lot of love for each other, we were not free to be our differentiated selves.
When I was growing up, I was very, very close to my mother. And my father, while I loved him and often felt sorry for him because I could feel his remorse, was an alcoholic/rage-aholic.
So when I started having images, dreams, and eventually memories come up of having been sexually abused by my mother, I really struggled to keep my sanity. My mom had always been the “safe” parent. I had almost constant suicidal ideation for about a year, and once I came very close to becoming catatonic.
God was very, very good to me. That first year, I hurt so badly I could not pray, but I had two wonderful prayerful friends with whom I shared what I was going through, and who prayed for me. I also had a super supportive boyfriend, who is still a dear friend. So I survived. And over time I was able to be in Mom’s presence without the abuse being in the front of my mind all the time.
Of course I needed distance, physical distance as well as psychological distance from my mother.
My mother was never diagnosed with anything. In her 60s, she finally had some consistent counseling, and had memories come up of being sexually abused by her brother. She never told me this, but my sister shared it with me. I believe Mom was also sexually abused by her mother.
Besides being a perpetrator, and a victim, she was very controlling, at times manipulative, and always competing with me, the oldest daughter. My brother-in-law even noticed this.
When she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, it was within days of my becoming engaged to Terry.
As she was increasingly ill, I offered to become her primary caregiver, and moved in with her. I did this because I knew I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t, partly for her, somewhat for my siblings, but mostly for me.
God gave me the most wonderful transformation and healing during those several last months of Mom’s life. Although I had forgiven her in my mind and with my intention immediately, I had a cold wall of protection up between us. And I was amazed to realize that as she suffered more and more physical pain, a part of me was glad. I felt she deserved it, she had hurt me so terribly, an almost killing wound.
But as her suffering grew steadily worse, God melted this cold hard place in me and I was able to pray that God would ease and end her suffering, to want an end to it 100 percent. And although extremely difficult, I even was able to get into bed with her, lie beside her, and hold her (with some distance), to give her comfort. She was frantic and out of her mind the last few weeks of her life, and at times this was the only thing that would calm her. My sister-in-law also did this for Mom, much more easily than I did, I’m sure.
Mom died 6 years ago on Thanksgiving Sunday. And I am only now realizing the pearl of redemption and transformation that I received as I accompanied her. I was freed of the cold anger and bitterness that I had never realized was in me; the wall between us that I could not put down was melted. And I was able to recognize, affirm, and live into the love that was pure and good between us.
My prayer for you and Catherine and your mother is that you will all receive gifts of transformation and redemption as you accompany her into her aging. She may be with you for many more years. I know just the shift of having to parent your parent is painful. But I believe God will bring good out of this, for each of you.