How Mama’s Facebook post boosted our bandwidth

“JUST WANTED TO LET EVERYONE KNOW I AM STILL LIVING!! I SURE APPRECIATE ALL YOUR PRAYERS DURING MY ILLNESS. LOVE EACH AND EVERYONE OF YOU. LET ME HEAR FROM YOU…I WILL BE CHECKING FB. HOPE TO SEE YOU AGAIN SOON. LOVE VIRGINIA”

We got a kick out of my mother-in-law’s Facebook post, which I am quoting with her permission. That post is pure Mama, right down to typing in all caps. She says she can see what she’s writing better that way, and she doesn’t care if readers on the Internet think she’s shouting.

Shout away, I say. We’re shouting too, in relief and joy.

It was as if the sun had come out after four months of wondering whether Mama was going to make it, and if she made it, whether she could find some measure of happiness – or at least, non-miserableness – in a nursing home. It was all we could think about as we drove back and forth from Charlotte to the Savannah area week after week – that and bandwidth.

You’ve heard of bandwidth in relation to technology – the amount of data that can be transmitted in a fixed amount of time. How much can you handle? And what happens when your capacity is overloaded? We had 5-hour drives to figure it out.

We set priorities for our time and energy, as so many of our friends have done in similar circumstances. My husband and I scaled back on everything – work, housework, yardwork, relationships – and hoped that we could reconnect later. Being present for Mama, for my brother- and sister-in-law, and for each other was our highest priority. We drove, we slept, we ate comfort food. We turned the spare bedroom into a staging area for laundry and packing.

We read Atul Gawande’s book “Being Mortal” and watched the “Frontline” episode based on the book. “Being Mortal” is a thoughtful discussion about focusing on quality of life as we age that suggests, among other things, that we look closely at what really matters to us and whether available medical interventions make a difference. I highly recommend Gawande’s work, especially if you or your family face chronic or potentially life-threatening health issues.

We are grateful for good medical care and compassionate doctors and nurses. We are grateful that our work is portable and flexible, and that we can spend time with family when we need to. We are grateful for our new and deeper relationship with my brother- and sister-in-law, Ronald and Neca Bennett, who visit Mama every day and opened their home to us.

The rollercoaster has flattened out a little. Mama’s Facebook post was a sign she was rebounding in body and spirit. We suddenly felt better, too. Our bandwidth is growing again, and soon it will match our deep gratitude.

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