My mother was diagnosed with ALS.
This in and of itself was beyond my comprehension. She has always been “let’s walk, we need the exercise and the air” kind of girl, and to think of her becoming bed bound and immobile was shattering. The silver lining is that my mom has been so active and the model of health, so ALS has moved very slowly through her body. Her respiratory system has remained in amazing condition. But over the course of 4 years it has slowly, day-by-day robbed her of little bits of activity. Through all of this, she is positive and loving, and the best mom anyone could ask for.
I asked myself what could I do? Helpless is not a feeling I deal well with. Then I asked HER. She wanted to downsize her home while she could still talk and sit up. Her motivation was to not leave her partner- who was being an exceptional, full time caregiver- a huge mess to clean up when it was time to punch her clock (her words, not mine). This I could do. This was in my wheelhouse.
I had no idea what an emotional blessing I had signed up for.
I rolled up my sleeves and drank a lot of water. It took many sessions and deep, lovely conversations emerged. I took bags and bags to donation. The huge garage sale was exhausting. The slow but steady results looked amazing. The constant contact between family members that resulted from this was priceless.
One of the huge positives of downsizing a parent while they are still alive is being able to know what has been promised to whom. There were things that I would have donated that had special meaning to people and stories I had never heard. Sitting with my mom and listening to her life story, narrated by her was a gift. Telling me why my daughter was getting a particular piece of jewelry helped her let go of it and ‘gift it’ while she could see how much joy it gave. The pleasure this gave mom was immense and unexpected. Our family felt closer. We all felt like we were experiencing my mother’s life a bit more, rather than sitting and waiting for her to be taken.
The physical unloading of belongings resulted in a mental unloading of stress for her partner. You can only imaging how stressful the thought of sifting through a loved ones belongings after they are gone can wear on you. Especially if you are busy care giving and trying to get through each day healthy, bathed and fed. The physical space helped both of them breathe easier and move through the house more freely. When you are adding wheelchairs, stair climbers, ramps, and bathing seats to your home- every inch matters. Literally. EVERY. INCH. He worried less about mom falling. He also felt loved and considered during this adventure. How amazing to have someone love you so much that they think about your grief process and want it to be as easy as possible for you.
I do not want anyone tho think that this was easy. I cried. I screamed into pillows. I came home so distraught twice that I fetal-positioned for several hours before I could eat or breathe. My love and respect for my mother grew immensely and I would sometimes feel like it would be harder to lose her now. God got cursed at a few times. But at the end of this, I felt loved. Tired and loved.
Just so you know, my mother was a hoarder of fabric, buttons, sewing machines, and anything sewing related. I gifted and sold more than 200 yards of fabric. She was also a square dancer and we found homes for a giant rack of dresses (all made by her), foofy slips, and silk under garments. We all have our vices.