“Take me home,” was something I heard Mom say again and again throughout the latter part of my caregiving journey with her. Sometimes it was literal: Take me to the home I once occupied. But usually it was the wish to return to her former life where she felt a sense of belonging. “Take me home,” resounded in me, the need to find a way to feel peace on a dark night, to find something to guide me when I didn’t know what to do, and to help me give comfort and advice to Mom about something I had not gone through myself.
I began to make time to reach inward by closing my eyes as though I were closing the door to the outside world and opening a door within that led to a soft, cave-like shelter.
This practice of turning inward evolved into a sacred place within I eventually called “The Inner Home.” It was a place I came to count on for peace, balance, and wisdom.
I created a ritual to enter my Inner Home by lighting a candle, playing peaceful music and setting an intention. Sometimes I incorporated requests and prayers for help from my higher self and any higher being who could help me. I wrote down my thoughts and I was deeply moved each time my requests for peace, comfort, or wisdom were answered.
I began to feel accompanied, and my intense fear of death was softened. My “ordinary reality” began to shift. How the sun hit the waves, coincidences, intuitions, dreams—all became reminders of something watching over me, helping me along the way.
This intrigued me and gave my life and my journey of caregiving Mom, a renewed interest and purpose.
Even though there were many times when nothing could relieve my anguish as I watched Mom’s suffering, I could feel into the strength of my Inner Home. And even though there were many times I felt alone in the universe, in this desperate aloneness, bit by bit, day by day I had a place to recover my balance. The saving grace that became the “sun” in my world was the awareness of this refuge, my Inner Home where many times a sense of the preciousness of life would come over me.
The feeling that life is a precious gift engendered gratitude and a deep regard for living, relating, and breathing in the present moment—noticing as though for the first time the shape of a rock, or the way a leaf falls to the ground, or a particular look on Mom’s face. The blind one within could suddenly see, the deaf one could suddenly hear, the terrified one could suddenly breathe.
My Inner Home grew and developed each time I turned within. I began to experiment with this inner space and found that often a sense of timelessness and a particular quality of stillness would come over me. A door seemed to open to another realm where everything felt more vibrant and I would become infused with gratitude and a sense of the sacred.
This atmosphere caused a vibrancy of mind that helped me think more objectively. I used this state of mind to work on difficult issues and interactions with Mom, to inform decisions regarding her care, and to work on dreams that had pertinent meaning. I became kinder and more open. Negative and confusing feelings would often transform into a feeling of rejuvenation. One thing began to lead to another and I realized I was on a path of discovery. Coincidences, inspirational books, dreams, and intuitions appeared like little jeweled helpers guiding me deeper into a world of light and meaning amidst the agonies of Mom’s sufferings.
These discoveries and practices turned the task of caring for Mom into a journey that depended on and was enriched by my own psychological and spiritual work. A connection to something bigger and wiser within was born as Mom was leaving this world.
Liza Johnson, a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist, has a private psychotherapy practice in Huntington, New York. She is a Certified Meditation Teacher, graduate of the Gestalt Center of Long Island and The International Institute for the Study Dream Work. Liza facilitates The Caregiver’s Circle where she teaches her practice called the Inner Home. Liza is author of Take Me Home: Walking on Sacred ground in the Last Stage of Life .