I've recently discovered the Masterpiece Theater series, Downton Abbey. I ordered the entire first season of episodes and have been enjoying them so much, perhaps a bit too much; because over this past weekend I used them to escape the pressure of spending "quality time" with Mom.
Well. I found that I can run but I can't hide; my suppressed emotions toward my mother follow me wherever I go. In my little upstairs room I sat, eyes glued determinedly to the TV screen, intent upon a self-awarded respite from my mother's angst. Just that morning she had proclaimed she wished she could die. The catalyst for this emotion was that I'd forgotten to lay out her bread for toast. She had reached out to me for comfort but I had been awakened from a sound sleep by her call, and was not responsive. In response to my bleary eyed silence she asked "Why don't you just tell me right out to go to Hell?" I was polite but not helpful, telling her she'd probably just had a bad dream and that everything was fine. I went out and closed the door. I closed my heart as well; I did not pray for Mom, I only felt judgmental toward her. There was no empathy or love.
Awhile later I closed myself away from Mom as far as is possible in this old house and began watching Masterpiece Theater. Suddenly I found myself overwhelmed by tears when Downton's head cook, a chubby little older lady, was terrified of an impending surgery and was all alone in an empty room. When the girl who had delivered the older lady to the hospital room spoke kindly but then left, I badly wanted her to stay and offer empathy and comfort. I wanted the girl to stay with the old lady throughout her procedure. And I realized that I so often leave my mother alone when she has real emotional pain, and then ridicule her or judge her because she craves the comfort of food. And so I turned off the TV and prayed, "Lord, have mercy on me. Strengthen my heart. Strengthen my heart to bear my mother’s sorrow with her, to help her to cast it on You, to pray for her, to help her."
When my mother's burdens are too heavy for me to bear, when I can't cope with her anger or her emotional pain; I can pray for her. The alternative is to trivialize her suffering by calling it "drama" or judging her as being gluttonous or lazy. When I pass judgment I sin, not against Mom, but against the Lord.
I'm sure that if I do not repent of these sins on a daily basis and continue to build a case against my mother as I've been doing--rolling my eyes and shaking my head rather than exhibiting compassion--that there will be an accounting to pay when she is gone. It is then that the enemy of my soul will flash before me all the unkind and sinful behaviors I exhibited toward my mom as she lost her life to Alzheimer's disease. Those sins I so easily excuse now out of a sense of entitlement for "all I've been through" will surely haunt me later, but for God's grace.
Resolutions to be nicer to my mother won't work; she is good at thwarting my good intentions. But bringing my heart's hurts to the Lord and asking for His strength to endure will help, as will praying for my mother. It's hard to pray for her because there is so much emotion there just under the surface, terrible love, terrible grief; and yes, terrible anger. But God is big enough to handle it. I can cast my cares on Him. He understands when I'm not strong enough to do more or to be nicer. I can bring my weakness to Him.
Prayer: Lord, forgive me the ways I've failed You and failed my mother. Strengthen me to be kind and compassionate to her, and forgive me for the ways I have judged her and repeated her offenses to others in an exasperated or "she's ridiculous" way. Help me to be loyal, not so much to my mother as to You. I lift Mom to You and pray Your solace and comfort for her today. I can't carry her but You can. I lift my mother to You, Lord. In Jesus' Name I pray, Amen.