There are times when no matter how hard you wish you truly can not alleviate another person’s torment.
Hope as you might, try as you might, their torture exists beyond the reach of your personal influence.
This past week, my mother came to Atlanta for my niece’s high school graduation.
We all sat through the two-hour ceremony and only upon coming back to the house for a meal afterwards did my mother mention to me that she felt anything other than wonderful.
“Will you help me?” she asked.
“Of course,” I said.
I knew that she wanted me to give her yoga exercises to alleviate the shooting pain radiating from her neck and upper back down into her arm.
So we went down to the basement of the house where my niece lives and I made do with the few pieces of equipment I could gather – a yoga mat, a strap, a foam roller, a chair, the back of a couch and the walls of the room.
Even as we worked through the gentle exercises my mother did not complain.
But I could tell the ache was more than she could bear.
She asked to stop before I was ready to finish.
I knew I had to allow her process and not force anything.
The next day, a Sunday, I called in the afternoon to hear how she was doing.
It was 2 o’clock.
I was surprised to learn that she was already back home in Savannah.
“I got up at 6 a.m. to drive home,” my mother admitted.
This time she began relaying a little more of the truth of the hurt.
“Please go to the emergency room,” I begged her.
I called my brother, a doctor, and within minutes he and I were off the phone and within the hour my mother was waiting at an orthopedic emergency center.
The doctors prescribed pain medication.
I called the next day, a Monday, to check on her progress.
And the next day.
Not any better.
And the next.
I texted my mother’s physical therapist. I begged my mother to make an appointment for acupuncture (you always have to make do with the therapies a person is willing to accept) but the next available time slot wasn’t for the following week.
Finally a doctor prescribed even stronger medication.
The physical therapist worked with my mother two days in a row at the end of the week.
“Are you any better than you were last Saturday?”
“Not really,” she admitted.
If I had it all my way, my mother would have seen a non-force chiropractor for an adjustment, the acupuncturist she had visited before, a Reiki master for energy healing, a neuromuscular therapist for release of her trigger points and a yoga therapist for correction of her kyphosis. She would also have been taking natural anti-inflammatories rather than prescription drugs that would surely be affecting her digestion and her brain chemistry.
But it wasn’t my journey, it was hers.
And I could love her all the way through.
Meanwhile, as I was reaching out to my mother day by day, I was texting back and forth with a client whose ailing mother had just been rushed to the ICU.
“This is my worst nightmare,” my client wrote.
I wrote a prayer for my client and her mother and hit send in the text box.
My client’s mother passed away shortly afterwards.
“I am completely heartbroken,” my client wrote.
“I don’t really know what to think. She is the first person to show me unconditional love. A daughter is a daughter forever and she will always be with me. I’m grateful for the years that I had with her and I know she will be with me.
“Mommy, I love you more than words could ever describe.”
I sent my client a photograph of a butterfly.
“This beautiful butterfly posed for me in August 2015 when I was at a yoga retreat.
“I probably took at least 50 photos of him.
“I’m sending you this image to remind you that you are surrounded by love and light even in the moment of your greatest loss. I’m so sorry you are suffering. Please hold this image in mind and let this beautiful butterfly comfort you.”
I was winding down after hearing of my client’s loss when I looked at my Twitter feed and discovered there had been yet another terrorist attack in London.
I reached out through Facebook to an old friend I hadn’t talked to in awhile.
The last time she and I had communicated was after the previous London terror attack on March 23.
“Are you OK?” I asked. “Just heard of the news from London – sending YOU lots of love and light!”
She confirmed that indeed she was safe but had recently been diagnosed with edema in her bone marrow. She has been hobbling around on crutches and is hoping to take time off to work to recover from emotional exhaustion after her father had passed away.
“Processing all the trauma from my childhood,” my dear friend confided. “Working through everything and just working out how to give up work for a while while I recover!!”
I encouraged my friend to give me a ring over Skype when she felt like talking. And then she was off to bed.