Walking Each Other Home

Walking Each Other Home

I think it was Ram Dass who said that we are all here just walking each other home.  This thought comes to me over and over these days as I struggle with my mother’s declining health. My mother, now 92 years old, has enjoyed really good health until recently. Slowly over the past two years, but more rapidly over the past three months, she has begun to experience increased memory loss and decreased mobility. It is heartbreaking to watch.

My brother and I are largely clueless about how to manage these issues with my mom. We’ve not walked this road before and the experience is like being two teenagers who decide to take road trip in the middle of the night. We have a car that works, we know the general direction we are headed, but we are missing the exact route, the car has no GPS, but we do have a paper map and are using that to plot the route. We can see as far as we can see out of the windshield, but that is nowhere near far enough for us to really and truly see the road ahead. Still, as long as we keep moving, we can see the road and that is something.

My cousins, whose mother was my favorite aunt and the person who taught me a lot of the important things in life, walked this path before me. My aunt passed away a number of years ago, but not without a slow and (at least for us) painful demise.  I can remember feeling furious at God over my aunt’s health. I felt so betrayed. She served him with, as the Catholic’s say, a glad heart; yet He didn’t take her peacefully in her sleep like He should have if He had been the all-powerful, all knowing Oz as I was taught in grammar school. And, even if He truly wasn’t all knowing and all-powerful, He could have just followed my advice. Goodness knows I offer it often enough to anyone who is listening.

These days when I get a concerned call from my mother’s assisted living nurse, one of the first things I do is call my cousins. They have nothing to say in terms of advice, and nothing to offer in terms of things we should do, but they have walked this path before me and that, in and of itself, is a pretty big gift. They have felt these feelings, have watched this similar demise, have felt the injustice of it all and, perhaps the best part, they love my mother like I loved their mother. There is some synchronicity in this circle of love that is soothing to me.

I think we cannot underestimate the value of having people in our lives who have walked the same road before us.  In fact, I think it is part of our obligation to be there for people who are experiencing what we have experienced before them pay-it-forward and all of that. I cannot think of anything that contributes more to people who are struggling, than knowing they are not alone in the struggle. I vividly remember people who have held my hand when I was struggling, and I remember vividly those who walked away. I also remember the feeling of belonging when someone held my hand through the struggle, as well as the feelings of loss and hopelessness when people who could have reached out walked away instead.  I am sure my brother and I will be pay-it-forward people.

So, here’s to a life where we all reach out whenever we can, and take a hand.  We are all here to just walk each other home, to be there for the people who we may not even have met yet, and for people who might not even know they will need to be walked home.