The other day, my mother said sometimes she feels "invisible" when people are talking about her brain cancer. They talk around her, about her, but not to her. Inside, she is screaming: "Hey, I'm still alive. I'm right here. Talk to me."
Even with a brain tumor, my mother is still the smartest person in our house. Because her vision is now poor, she spends most of her days listening to CNN. She can tell you just about anything about the economy or foreign affairs. She asked me yesterday what I thought of the new French president, she named a road in China for my daughter who was working on a school project, and she still routinely spells words for me when I am writing and need help.
So, for people to talk around her is the biggest insult imaginable. Her body may have failed her, but her brain is still working just fine for the most part. I try not to allow this invisibility to happen. I try to steer the conversation back towards her when possible, to ask her what she wants. She has abdicated so many decisions to me in the past few week about her medical care, her business, her home, her finances that sometimes even I forget what she really needs is to be engaged and considered as having valuable insight.
I can't pretend to know how she feels. Having a terminal illness is a lonely road even when you are surrounded by loving family and friends. But I can try and respect her and honor her as the brilliant woman she is and has always been.
I was buying a reclining lift chair for her the other day and called her from the store to give her options. One was more plush, and, thus, more expensive.
"Mom, what do you think?"
"You, decide. Whatever you think," she said wearily.
I sat in both and reported over the phone to her how they felt. Both were comfortable, but one a little softer than the other.
"I like comfort," she said wryly. "You know that. It's hard for me to get comfortable when I can't move."
"OK, boss, then it is the plush one. You're driving the train."