By the time this blog is posted, my lovely ancient mother will have turned 99-years-old, outliving her four siblings literally by decades. We are stunned by her longevity, but she’s a little less of herself each day, ravaged by the inevitable physical and mental declines of ancient age. But once in a while – though increasingly rarely – I get a little peek at the original ‘Marion’ who still inhabits, somewhere deep inside, one little corner of this now almost unrecognizable mind and body.
I see Mom several times each week, at her dementia assisted living facility just minutes from our house. Always a sweet and sensitive person, Mom had often spontaneously shared poetry she’d loved and memorized through the years. On a recent visit, she surprised me by reciting her favorite stanza from Invictus, a poem by William Ernest Henley.
“Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.”
The last two lines of Invictus declare, “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” Marion really isn’t the “master of [her] fate” any more. From dawn to dusk, her day is planned and prescribed by others. They choose her clothes, puree her food, and roll her wheelchair into activities that are far beyond her now-reduced understanding.
Honestly, my visits with Mom, who can no longer engage in lucid conversation, can be draining and frustrating. It’s a little too easy for me to disengage and mentally review plans for my own day. But Mom’s poetic recollection brought me right back into the room – fully.
What a joy and relief for me to think that ‘Marion’ still has one small part of herself that feels “unconquerable.” And it’s a welcome reminder to me to try a little harder to be fully present, to honor and embrace that “unconquerable soul” every time I visit.
Diane Martin, Board of Trustees