Getting old is not easy. Many people are afraid of growing old. Have you heard people talking about “midlife crisis”? I think this is when our body and hormones stop doing what they are supposed to do, and people start fearing the end.
Of course, fearing the end does not provide insurance from it. On the contrary, it only speeds up the process of aging towards the end. And losing a family member, especially a parent, also increases our stress by reminding us that we are next…
My mom experienced both of these things. She struggled with her health and lost her mother last year. This affected her so much she was depressed, weak and in enormous pain.
If you’ve had a chance to read the previous chapters of my mom’s journey, this post is the conclusion of a 5-week visit to Australia, when my family and I, together with my dad, changed her health and her mind and brought back her quality of life. I hope the ideas we have used during their visit will inspire you to take the journey yourself, if you are not healthy, or help someone in your life shift from sickness to health. It is possible!
On the third week of my parents’ visit, after the withdrawal from her pain killer patches, my mom came back to life. When we played “3 things that made me happy today”, she cooperated.
We still avoided long trips, but she was willing to walk in the shopping center for 4 hours to buy some gifts she wanted to take home with her. She also walked with Eden and Ayla around the neighborhood.
When we asked her about sweating at night, it dropped to once a night or none at all and she cooked a lot more, because her arm was stronger. For her, cooking is part of her identity. Not being able to cook made her feel useless. The results of her blood sugar were excellent, and she was in pain, but rated it much lower.
It was noticeable that on the first two weeks of their visit, she was not able to cope with the conversations around her and switched off. However, on the last two weeks, she took part in the conversations.
The first week they arrived, we had a party at our house to celebrate their visit and get our friends to know them and vice versa. We had about 60 people on our deck and every visitor brought food. Everyone introduced themselves and spent some time with my parents. Some people even remembered them from their previous visit, 13 years ago.
Within 10 minutes, my dad was already talking to people freely. When I walked around, people said to me, “Your dad is cool”. He was so easy to talk to that within half an hour, he had found personal connections with 3 people at the party.
My mom, on the other hand, didn’t leave the kitchen. All the food was on the tables outside, people were sitting in groups and talking outside, all of them spoke her language, but she still couldn’t join in.
At one stage, Eden, my daughter, told me that I needed to get her out of the kitchen. It wasn’t easy. She kept saying there were many things to do, although there was absolutely nothing to do inside.
When I took her out, I sat with her next to a group of very kind women who asked her questions and complimented her for her cooking. She replied with smiles and “yes”, “no” answers.
I was concerned she didn’t understand what people said to her. This was true for all the interactions we had, but there was a huge difference in the last two weeks of their visit. She joined in, asked questions and was much friendlier towards everyone around.
When we went to the Sauna, I met a friend and although my mom could not speak English, she talked through me a lot. In the last two weeks of her visit, my mom initiated many conversations with people at the Sauna. Some of them she even tried to have without my intervention, just with the 10 English words she knew and her sign language abilities.
She was definitely not the same person anymore. She looked different and she felt different. For many years, we could not say anything to her about the future, but towards the end, she talked about the future many times.
When my brother took my parents to the airport, my dad told him to sell his old car and buy a new car. During my parents’ visit, my dad coordinated the purchase in secret to surprise my mother.
For a long time, when my dad talked about buying a new car, my mom said, “We are old. What do we need a new car for?” I thought it was very symbolic of him to buy the new car as a way of saying, “I still plan to drive, and we are not dead yet!”
Several times, when we saw fancy cars, my dad asked my mom, “What do you think of us in a car like this?” and she smiled and rolled her eyes, “What are you talking about? We’ll never have such a fancy car”.
Gradually, as she felt better, she started sharing an opinion about each car. “This one is too high”, “This one is too small”, “Wow, this one has a big engine”. She also talked about the color she liked. At first, my dad said they would buy a small red SUV and later changed it to a different color.
The idea was that when they returned home, my brother would pick them up from the airport with their new car. Sadly, this did not happen, because the car only arrived a week after their return and postponed their return home.
But everyone who came to see them, said my mom looked 20 years younger. Her skin looked great, she smiled, she lost weight, her legs were slim (normal) and she raved about everything she had done in Australia.
I think that during their visit, I went through some changes myself. Although I did believe that my mom was in pain, I understood why my siblings had said she was exhausting. I remember scenes when she felt confused and was in tears from thinking her body had betrayed her.
In his book, The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology, Jack Kornfield talks about healing through breathing and use of compassion. When my mom came, I realized she was in great pain and that inside of me, there was some judgment towards her. I knew I couldn’t help her with such thoughts and beliefs and worked on my own judgment.
Every time I felt judgmental – that she annoyed me, that she behaved like a child, that she was insensitive – I examined my own “attachments” and my own judgment and tried breathing them out of me. At one stage, I managed to imagine her as a scared child, in a very confused world.
One day, we went to the beach. We got out of the car and her shoelaces came loose. She tried to lift her foot to tie them, but she couldn’t. I bent down and said to her, “That’s OK, Mom. Let me do this”, and for a second, I felt bad for judging her. How many times had she tied my shoelaces when I was a helpless kid? How many nights had she woken up at night when I was sick?
I had several similar incidents on their first week with us, which helped me face my own demons. This is when I made the decision to spend my time totally focusing on my parents. No work, no friends, no planning (though I knew that two weeks after they left, I had a big corporate gig in India). I would just be with them.
Every time I panicked about work, with my endless list of things to do, I took a deep breath and released it. For the first three weeks, I told myself, “This is the last time they will ever make the trip to Australia”. At the end of their visit, I changed my mind. Even my mom changed her mind and started talking about visiting my sister in the USA and coming back again to Australia.
In the 2 days before their return home, we sat together and reviewed their visit. Everyone said what was special for them about the visit. The kids were amazing. Tsoof (my son) said he enjoyed the time he had with my dad and both said that it was wonderful to hear stories about my parents’ childhood.
There were many happy memories. Even Ayla spent more time with us because of their visit and my mom said, “I looked in the mirror and saw a spark in my eyes. I haven’t seen it for a long time. It was a healthy spark. I felt healthy. I have my body back. I feel healthy now. I want to thank you all”. Everyone was so excited. It was a happy ending.
Usually, there is a bit of tension during my parents’ visits. It’s not easy to be hosts for 5 weeks and it’s not easy to be guests for 5 weeks. Usually, there is usually a bit of tension between Gal and me, because they “steal me away”. My parents can’t be left on their own anywhere, because they don’t speak English. They don’t drive and they depend on me from the moment they wake up until the moment they go to sleep.
This visit was different. No tension between Gal and myself and no tension before they left. I think we all went through something together, and apart, while they were with us.
If I had to guess, I think we were scared that it might not work, that we might not be able to help her, that she would be in pain, that we would feel helpless, that she would get sick and that we would feel guilty. So, when she said she felt healthy looking at herself in the mirror, we all had tears of joy. It did work! Often, the fear of the wolf is greater than the wolf itself, and ours was a pretty big “wolf”.
Today, when I’m writing this post, it is 9 months after their visit. My mom takes no more painkillers. Her legs are in perfect condition. She takes nothing for her blood sugar, doesn’t sweat at night, her arm is stronger, and she is doing physiotherapy to keep the ligament in place.
She only takes vitamins and when she came back home, she started taking medicinal cannabis oil, which helps greatly to maintain her health and keep the pain in check. She started driving again and she is no longer afraid to stay the night with my sisters (there’s no need to change her bedsheets several times a night).
She checked her sensitivity to gluten and found out she was not sensitive to gluten, which gave her more freedom with food. After 5 months of eating gluten, she was so in tune with her body that she decided to go back to gluten-free, because she felt uncomfortable with the gluten.
She eats more protein and uses cold pressed rice bran oil and cold pressed olive oil only. She eats butter without feeling guilty and as many eggs as she wants. She started going to the Country Club – a sports center my dad used to fight with her about every day. She changed doctors (thank God!) and she walked to the doctor, instead of driving there.
She went to fix her dentures and her smile looks awesome. This week, my dad said they went to see a doctor for the pain in her shoulder that started irritating her again. The doctor wanted to give her painkillers again, but when my dad discovered what they were, he said, “No, we are not starting with painkillers again”, and my mom did not argue.
She still takes the placebo and every time she takes it, she feels something in her body changing. My dad updates me whenever he gives her one of them.
She talks about plans for the future and is very happy and excited to talk to everyone. In our Skype conversations, she is more active and this week, when I talked to them, she was cooking in the kitchen, smiling and happy.
The photo below was taken recently just before her 88th birthday and she looks amazing and feels amazing.
9 months later, I don’t fool myself that she will live forever. However, she is 88 years old now and in a completely different headspace. So far, no complaints, no pain, she thinks that whatever happened to her was a miracle. It was a miracle to get her back to life, so we and our children and grandchildren can enjoy her company for a few more years.
Everyone in the family thinks it was a miracle too and I say everyone can bring this miracle to his or her own life. If you need such miracle in your life or in someone who is dear to you, I hope the strategies I have used to help my mom, will be helpful for you too.
May the force be with you,
This post is part of the series From Sickness to Health:
- From Sickness to Health: The Story of Our Life
- From Sickness to Health: Working Together on a Shared Goal
- From Sickness to Health: Doctors are Not Gods
- From Sickness to Health: Doubt Before Healing
- From Sickness to Health: The Pharmacist
- From Sickness to Health: John the Wizard
- From Sickness to Health: New Diet and The Drug Dealer
- From Sickness to Health: Miserable Discount
- From Sickness to Health: The Placebo Effect
- From Sickness to Health: Baby Ayla
- From Sickness to Health: Happy Ending