The other night we watched the classic movie E.T. The kids loved the part where Gertie dresses up E.T. like a girl for Halloween. They laughed when E.T. see’s a Yoda while Trick or Treating and repeatedly calls out….”Home…home….home…”. They screamed with delight when Elliot lets out all of the frogs in the classroom. Of course, the scene that is a favorite for all of us is when Elliot flies over the treetops with E.T. in his bike basket.
I had forgotten how alarmingly scary E.T. looks when Elliot finds him lying helpless in the river all grey, shriveled up, shrunken, and slowly dying. It is around that time when Elliot begins to also get more and more ill. He is so metaphysically connected to E.T. that he emotionally and physically experiences whatever E.T. does. The poignant scene of them both lying on stretchers with Elliot reaching out to E.T. is a tear jerker moment.
As I was watching this scene, I thought, “Sometimes I feel like Elliot”.
Watching your parent and friend very slowly fade away and deteriorate can sometimes leave you feeling like you are experiencing their pain right along with them. When my mom looks so helpless, I sometimes feel helpless with knowing how to best help her. When she repeats a story over and over again that makes no logical sense, I feel confused right along with her. I am not always sure how to respond. Do I tell the truth? Or do I lie and “meet her where she is” in her memory (which is called therapeutic fibbing) . Sometimes it is a fairly easy choice. Like when she says she just went somewhere with my father 2 weeks ago, and it has really been close to 5 years since she has last seen him. Telling her that no, she hasn’t actually seen him for that long would upset her, so why go there?
I have recently found out that mom’s kidneys are not doing well. She has one diseased kidney that is barely functioning and the other is not doing well either. They are going to give her a CAT scan of her kidneys to see where we go from here. Of course, a kidney transplant is not an option. And Dialysis would be very tough on her already fragile system. In the long run, I suppose we are looking at acute kidney failure.
By that time, all that can be done, would be to keep her comfortable as this disease slowly takes her from us. I had always known that this could eventually be what finally takes her. She has had kidney issues in the past. Of course, the doctors can’t give a time line. All the nurse has said is that “we are not near Dialysis yet”. But she did tell me we need to discuss how much treatment we eventually want to go forward with.
For now I will focus on enjoying the time we have left with her, and be grateful for that.
In so many ways, my mom and I have had an Elliot/E.T. type of relationship. We have always been so dependent on each other, for companionship and friendship. I like Elliot, have tried in vain to repeatedly try to fix her and to lead her to safety. I have felt compelled to hide her “condition” of alcoholism from those outside our family for most of my life. I became consumed early on with keeping my mom alive, sober, and healthy. I feared her leaving me for good and much to early.
Through Al-anon, I learned how to detach from my controlling tendencies of trying to make her “stop” drinking. I still need to practice daily how to “let go, let God” and remember who is really in control. All I can control is the choices that I make for my own life. I practice gratitude continuously to stay focused on living in the “now”. God’s grace and mercy are so much easier to see that way. It’s like leaving your windshield wipers on high all day long. Sometimes that is what it takes to clear away all of those dark negative thoughts from clouding my perception and reality.
This all makes me think of When Peter said we are like “strangers and refugees in this world”. (1 Peter 2:11) That holy longing that I have felt for so long is normal and even good…like E.T, we are not meant to be truly content in this world. This world is a temporary pit stop, or “school”, where we are preparing how to one day live with our Maker. Our trials, disappointments, and losses are all teaching us, and refining our spirits…so that we can make it Home at last!
I like what Max Lucado said: “The only ultimate disaster that can befall us, I have come to realize, is to feel ourselves to be home on earth. As long as we are aliens, we cannot forget our true homeland.
Unhappiness on earth cultivates a hunger for heaven. By gracing us with a deep dissatisfaction, God holds out attention. The only tragedy, then, is to be satisfied prematurely. To settle for earth.”
I feel good about the fact that I will never be wholly satisfied here. Sure, I am blessed with so very much joy and love and goodness, and I feel tremendously grateful for all of it. But, I know that life here was never meant to be easy. Afterall, our Lord never promised easy. Easy is meant for Heaven….and until then…. I will never give up phoning Home.
The following song illustrates perfectly what I am talking about…..