Tuesday, June 2, 2015

On Breathing

My Mother was officially diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia several years ago, and in hindsight the symptoms had begun to insidiously weave their way into our lives long before that.  She was living with Ken and me at the time, and there was no question in our minds that we would care for her to the best of our abilities for as long as we were graced with her presence. 

From my collection of Folk Art
and Vintage Prayers and Icons.
As I write this, it sounds noble.  It wasn't.  My sister, Janet, and I were blessed with warm wonderful parents who loved us unconditionally throughout our lives.  They sacrificed for us, whether we deserved it or not.  Never ostentatious, and expecting nothing in return, they were shining examples of what it means to live with a giving heart.  For that I will be forever grateful.  We cared for Mom through good times and bad because we learned what we lived.

Early in this process, Ken would listen to my conversations with her.  He could tell that my level of frustration was on the rise, and he reminded me that logic was losing meaning for her.  He was right.  And his words lived in the forefront of my mind after that.

Thereafter, when we faced a particularly challenging situation, I'd seek a moment of quiet to reflect, count to ten, or silently pray.  These moments often took place in the space between my Mother's bedroom and our kitchen.

Consistently during these times, I breathed; I breathed deeply; and I breathed with intention.  With each inhalation, I focused on all that was right and good in our world.  With each exhalation, I mentally released all of the stress and sadness that seemed to be descending on us.  It's hard to describe the impact that this simple practice provided.  It allowed me to gain perspective, and it supplied me with a measure of relief amidst the chaos.

This year, as the speed of Mom's decline accelerated at a staggering pace, her challenges presented themselves more frequently and with increased intensity.  There was less time to regroup between episodes.  It was as if we were caught in the surf with no time to recover between waves.  All of our energy was focused on staying above water, and everything else in life was ancillary to that.  Calming breaths became a luxury reserved only for the most trying of times.  (In hindsight, this wasn't a great strategy; but it was our reality.)

After Mom died, on Thursday, May 14th, I immediately began to "do", and I immersed myself in it with a vengeance.  A few days later, when my pace failed to slow, Ken kindly suggested that I should stop doing and just be.  As soon as he said it, I realized that he was right.

The next day he escorted me out of town as we made our way to Pennsylvania for Mom's funeral.  A few hours into the drive, memories of Mom and our family in happier times drifted in and out of my mind.  We talked; we laughed; I cried; and we laughed some more.  As we marveled at the natural beauty around us, I exhaled loudly and fully.  In that moment, I realized that I'd been holding my breath for weeks.
The Prayer of Saint Francis speaks to my heart.
This one lives between my Mother's

bedroomand our kitchen.

Note to Self:
Inhale fully.
Exhale fully. 
In good times and bad. 
Be aware. 
Practice daily.

It's good for the soul.


Do you breathe deeply?  Exercise?  Meditate?  Pray?  
Or practice some other form of stress reduction in your life?  
I'd love to hear about it in the comments section that follows.


  1. I am so sorry for your loss. Your dedication and patience regarding your mom is inspiring on many levels. I'm glad you're finding comfort in your memories. Bless you and yours.

    1. Thank you so much, Kim. <3 Until the last few weeks, I didn't realize how all-encompassing our experience was.