My mother spent a good 60 years of her life being a mother and a wife with little thought to any other aspiration. She faced life’s vicissitudes with courage.
She lost two children at an early age and reared the three of us with passion. Like a brave soldier who gives his life to defend the country, my mother would gladly give her life if she needed to. Years ago, she had her first stroke. She was terrified and confused but regained her speech and there seemed little damage to her cognitive abilities. Till the second stroke came and truly took away all her confidence and will to survive. Several times she pulled out her feeding tube and looked at me imploring that I let her die in peace. Every time I tried to care for her by feeding her or cleaning her, she would push me away. I realised why she was doing this. She wanted to take care of her children, she did not want us to take care of her. In a flash I realised how much of her love we had taken for granted over the years. We demanded love and attention from her and we always got it. I sat down beside her and explained to her that she had taken care of me for fifty years.
Won’t she give me the opportunity to return some of that love? Somewhere in her confused and damaged mind there was a moment of understanding. She allowed me to care for her. It was I who became the parent and she the child. I understood what she must have gone through caring for us, like so many mothers do without even for a moment considering the magnitude of their devotion.
She lived for another six months. People often tell me that I did a wonderful thing by being by my mother’s side for six months. The fact is that she was by my side for 50 years. What I had done for her was a mere fragment, a pale imitation of love compared to her dedication. The Buddha mentions in one of his sutras that even if you offer your life, it cannot repay the debt of gratitude you owe to your mother.
(Article was earlier carried in Chicken Soup for the Soul— Indian Women.)
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