Mom, Plan “B” and the Challenges of Life

Ken Donaldson's Mom and her favorite prayer: The Serenity Prayer
Mom and Her Favorite Prayer

I wrote a post about two months ago about how Holly and I were taking a “mini-sabbatical” for the month of August. After all of our careful preparations and articulate planning, much of which included having extra sets of eyes and ears to watch over my 94 year-old mother, we thought we were totally prepared for this new adventure and the Challenges of Life.

What’s the old saying about the “best-laid plans?”

We were not expecting Mom’s health to take a sudden downward decline. We spent a week with Mom in hospital before she passed over on July 31st.

Not quite at all what we had in mind for this time off. Instead of taking a break to rest, recharge and figure what I want to do with the rest of my life, I found myself overcome with grief, shock and overwhelm. I was depressed.

So what do you do when your best-laid plan goes, “Poof,” and fades away like sun setting on the horizon?

Answer: Plan “B.”

Sometimes I laugh at myself because my business tagline is, “Prepare, Adapt, Succeed.” However, I find myself complaining (usually just to myself, in my head) when things don’t turn out the way I planned.

In other words, sometimes I forget that “adapting” is a big part of what I help people do, and since I too am “a people,” then adaptation is a prescription I can write to and for myself.

But Mom dying was WAY bigger than most of my day-to-day adapting mechanisms.

I cried a lot, and still am. It’s not that this was unexpected, as Mom was 94 and did have a number of health issues that were all gradually getting more serious as she aged. I just wasn’t expecting it to happen right then.

But I suspect most people don’t expect a loved one to die when they do. Even when we do somewhat expect it, it’s still a shock.

Death will do that. No matter how much preparation you can do, it’s still one of the most shocking blows a human encounters.

Once we got to Colorado (yes, we still went on our sabbatical; we just had to switch gears a bit) and were there for a few days, we realized that this was actually “good” timing, if there is such a thing as a good timing for death.

We realized that we had a month in which we really didn’t have to do much of anything. In fact, we made virtually no plans for our stay, other than renting the house we stayed at (which was completely awesome).

Since my dad passed in 2011, I’ve been Mom’s primary caretaker/caregiver. So every time I’ve left town, I’ve made sure that there would be other people around to watch over Mom. As her health has declined over the years, that has become more and more vital, and I have to admit, more stressful for me.

It was suddenly very weird to NOT have to worry about how Mom was doing or if everyone else around her were all doing what they were supposed to do. Although I was overwhelmed with grief, there was another part of me that could relax.

This was a strange dichotomy; grieving Mom’s passing but also being able to not worry about her.

I have to admit that I felt (and still do some) guilty for not having to worry about her. (Note: I’m seeing a Hospice counselor, and plan to do so for a while, so I can work through this wild emotional rocket ride. Just letting you know that I practice what I preach.)

I know “Mom’s in a better place,”(which, by the way, didn’t help at all when people have said that to me. It actually got me a little angry. I know, good thing I’m seeing a counselor, right?!!) and there is no more pain or suffering. But I miss her.

Mom was an amazing woman and I hope you’ll take a couple minutes to read a condensed version of her “life story.” Feel free to leave a memory or comment. And you’re welcome to join us for her Memorial/Celebration of Life Service (information on the previous link).

Feel free to leave a memory or comment. And you’re welcome to join us for her Memorial/Celebration of Life Service (information on the previous link).

I still haven’t fully synthesized her passing. When the phone rings, I still have an initial thought wondering if it might be her and what it is that she might possibly want. When I’m at the store, I find myself checking to make sure there wasn’t something that Mom wanted or needed.

I know all this will pass. But for right now, I’m embracing, in the best way I can, this grief. I’m trying to celebrate the life of this amazing woman who brought me into this world and gave me my life.

One thing is for sure: I will always be grateful for Mom.

Mom, Plan “B” and the Challenges of Life are all teaching me about that circle and continuum of life. Mom brought me into this world, and I was there on her way out. Everything in between birth and death can be planned and prepared for, but nothing is certain. Those are the challenges. Challenges cause change, and change invites growth.

Hey Life, I’m ready for the next chapter and all the challenges thereof. Bring it on…

In the meantime, today is a great day to Marry YourSelf First! You know, it was one of Mom’s favorite books!

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