One of the highlights of this Oxford adventure has been the occasional opportunity to strike out to other parts of the UK on short family trips. We love visiting some of the grand estates, many of which were around before our home country of Canada was established!
Some of these estates have incredible mazes, like this one pictured here at Blenheim Palace, just a short drive from where we live in South Oxford.
I am not sure how you feel about mazes. Some relish the challenge and disorientation a maze brings, assured they can solve its riddle. For others the possibility of being perpetually lost inspires a fear they could do without – so they pass.
For my part, I have mixed feelings about mazes. I do love their challenge and will enter them freely (although I find it annoying to do them with the kids leading the way ;). But even on my own, I can’t enjoy them as I’d like to. Though I have never really shared it this way before, for over two decades mazes have reminded me of my mom’s mental illnesses, which she has had for about as long as I can remember. They have called it manic depression, schizophrenia, and bi-polar disorder. The diagnosis doesn’t seem to matter anymore, as the goal of her care now is mainly just to keep her stable – not aiming at a cure.
My mom is absolutely lovely. She has a heart of soft gold. She is now in her mid-sixties. She has six grandchildren and counting. And for over a decade now she has lived in a care facility for the mentally ill. It is an incredibly caring place not far from our home in British Columbia. I thank God for the facility and its staff on a regular basis. She is well loved there, well provided for, and safe.
But, as you’d imagine, knowing that doesn’t make it easy to be away. It makes it possible but by no means easy. Of all the sacrifices that this path to Oxford has required, I’ve felt this one most acutely. All our family is dear to us, and we miss each and every one of them. But with mom being sick, it is different. I think about her and feel the distance more. As one of mom’s closest family members, her oldest son, I know that my absence has a negative impact on her in an already difficult situation, and that she would love to see Julie and the kids.
We’ve gotten home over each of the kids’ summer breaks and taken her out regularly while home. I try to call often, but it is hard. She doesn’t talk normally on the phone – sometimes reading out portions of the phone book at length, or talking about doctors appointments she never had. One has to read between the lines to hear the truth being expressed through the fog of delusional speech. Every once and awhile she will break out of it and ask about the kids, which thrills my heart, but those moments are few and fleeting.
I feel like I am standing on one of those observational towers above a vast maze, and I can see mom within it, but am unable to climb down into it with her. Nor can I see the way out for her, and even if I could see the way, I couldn’t lead her out.
All that is to say that though we are very assured that God led us onto this path through Oxford, it has been hard to understand the difficulty of mom left behind. Though we know it is right that we are here, our being away from her hasn’t felt ‘right’ at all.
I miss mom in more ways than one and, though I know she’d want us to pursue this Oxford adventure, it still feels wrong to be away. Thankfully there are many loving people who care for mom, like the dedicated workers at her care facility, other members of the family, and Lorna, pictured above, who couldn’t be a better companion to her.
On this Canadian Mother’s Day (in the UK they have it on a different day and call it ‘Mothering Sunday’), please continue to pray with us that mom would be well and that the Lord would make his comfort known to her in the midst of the maze in the meantime. Mazes aren’t daunting to him, and the wonderful thing is that he can be known anywhere he chooses. In fact, sometimes we are most open to his presence at our points of greatest perplexity and pain. May that be so here.
I love and miss you mom. You are the best mom in the whole wide world. I look forward to calling you on this special day!