Compassion is a verb ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
The past few weeks have been terribly difficult on my family and me. I was confronted with a lot of raw emotions and feelings. Seeing my mother hooked up to machines, mumbling incoherently, being unconscious, and having no awareness of her surroundings did that for me.
My emotions were high and low. I was angry, relieved, hopeful, confused, elated, frustrated and thankful. When something changed in her, something also changed in me. My feelings were aligned with her progress or little setbacks.
I spent many hours by her bedside and got to know the hospital staff (the doctors, nurses, nurses’ aides etc) quite well. The one thing they all had in common was compassion. Day after day, night after night they gave my mother dignity even when she felt she never had any. They were never condescending and always had a kind word to say to her.
I wholeheartedly agree with Thich Nhat Hanh. Compassion is action, action of the heart.
I thought sometimes that I was being tested. I know, how self centered, right? There were two particularly difficult days where she was driving me crazy. She was stronger at this point, but wasn’t of her own mind and was suffering from so many things, including days of nausea and vomiting. Incredibly uncomfortable, she became combative and argumentative and I became bossy. There was a point where I started to cry. I was overwhelmed, tired and at a loss as to what to do with her. As I was trying to pull myself together, the word compassion kept floating in front of my eyes. I took several deep breaths and told myself that was what she needed. I, on the other hand, really needed a stiff drink and a good night’s sleep. All joking aside, I gave her a big kiss and a hug and said good night. I’d like to tell you that everything was great after that, but I’d be lying. I felt so guilty that I cried myself to sleep.
The next day I armed myself with the memory of the “floating compassion” and vowed to try and keep everything in perspective. I offered her a heartfelt apology and she gracefully accepted it, even though she said she had no memory of the previous day, or maybe she did and was just being compassionate.