Loving my mother did not guarantee that I would be able to care for her without ever feeling angry, frustrated, irritable, or resentful. Loving my Self did not ensure that I could care for my mother without any experience of anger, frustration, fear, resentment or restlessness. Those feelings did not show up in me just in reaction to the old age behaviors of my mother, but mostly because of deeply felt emotions relating to what was happening to mother’s body, her brain. Because of the scrambled pathways in her brain, my mother’s thoughts had become scrambled, making her word usage be garbled and her body’s movements become unpredictable.Loving my mother, and my Self, meant only that I was willing to go through the trials and tribulations that are an integral part of end-of-life journeys. It meant that I had enough willingness to face not just my mother’s decomposition of mind and body, but also the emotional demons that still lurked within my own psyche. Up to that point in my life, I had developed those psychological defenses that could best help me keep a lid on any huge fires of emotions that could erupt whenever calamitous events ignited my life.To someone else, in the course of his/her own personal tragedy, it was easy for me to tell him/her that it was “perfectly natural” to feel such fiery emotions; and, that it was healthy to express those emotions in ways that did not hurt anyone. For myself, though, in coping with previous events of personal loss and disappointment, I could easily cry, yet would distract myself in some way before feeling any deep forces of anger or despair. Diving into my work, social or sports activities always tended to burn off the roughest edges of such unwanted emotions. It was also helpful to turn my attention to another person’s pain instead of remaining in touch with my own. During the experience of taking care of my mother, the words that I had said to others in emotional pain began staring me right in the face. It felt as if those previously tamped down fiery emotions were actually daring me to try to turn my back on them once again. This three-year period of time in which I was my mother’s “care bear” contained many hours of personal reflection for me. It did not take long for me to recognize and deal with a treasured psychological defense, a defense that always seemed to make me look really good. In my reflections that came during this time of caring for my mother, I came to realize that there were some shades of peace, faith, trust, and true humility in my character. My most honest “face” did peek out during some of my encounters with tragedy and disappointing events. Yet the costs from my efforts to contain any blast from my most fiery emotions by then had become detrimental to both my physical and emotional health. During the three years as mother’s “care bear,” the busyness of my life outside-the-home had become almost non-existent and, thus, could no longer insulate me from experiencing the strength of buried, fiery emotions. The knowledge that I had regarding psychological defenses had begun poking its finger at my own brain instead of being used to help other people get through their own reactive “messes.” I knew that the time for self-confrontation was coming, for there had been more tension and fear slipping in and around my skin, bones, brain, and other body parts since August, when I had started my eighth year as a group counselor at a nearby alternative school. The month before I began Family Medical Leave to take care of my mother, a good friend cornered me one day after school. Renee is a friend whom I had supported a few years previously, when she was re-establishing a more solid, honest relationship with herself after having to cope with a failed, long-term relationship. Renee had said to me, “I do not get it. You have always been so peaceful, no matter what. I always depend on you to see the bright side of things. Now, you always seem so uptight. It’s your mother, is not it?” I can remember just standing there in front of Renee, nodding my head, “Yes.” What came out of my mouth were these words, “I’m trying to make peace with the fact that I am no longer going to be able to be at peace for awhile.” Renee and I sat down together then and I told her about the early morning dream that I had been having for the past week. In the dream, I was standing, staring at a huge barren cliff that seemed to be “waiting for me” a little ways off but still in my path. I’d see myself walking towards the cliff, slowly and haltingly, yet moving forward, step-by-step. In my dream, every time that I’d get near the edge of the cliff, fear would so overwhelm me that I’d wake up, gasping, finding it hard to breath. I told Renee that I did not want to jump off the cliff because I was afraid of being smashed so totally in the fall that there would not be a “me” anymore. As I shared that dream with Renee, it felt as if a huge load of bricks were lifted from my shoulders. I admitted that I was scared about having to become responsible for all of mother’s health care needs. Mostly though, there was a lot of fear relating to putting my own life on “standby” for who knew how long. My deepest fears, however, became known during that conversation with Renee. I could feel the stirring of some deeply buried fires of emotion and had no confidence that I could effectively handle their flames. I did not talk much with Renee about those particular fears. It was enough for me to just know that those emotional fires were stirring. There became no doubt in my mind then, as my dream had foretold, that I would be having an up close and personal encounter with all manner of psyche fears and unwanted emotions. That conversation with Renee brought on in me an integral turning point. Though I was still scared, deep inside I felt a steadiness to my resolve, a commitment to face the changes in my life that were being presented to me. I wrote in my journal, “Opportunity was knocking. Destiny was calling me to take care of my mother, or else my spirit might become shriveled, bitter, and hard, at least for a while. A next soulful opportunity would eventually knock on the door of my life, yet this knock on the door would not stop.” I also wrote, “I will be mother’s brain, ‘care bear’ and guide as she approaches the end of her life. I can do this for her! Can I do this for me? Yes, I can. My peace, deeper that this fear, comes from knowing that, no matter how awful I may feel and react at times, there is a parachute of trust strapped to my mind.” I did not have the “cliff” dream again after that conversation with Renee. Taking the first step through the door to become mother’s “care bear” was hard, and as scary as it was when stepping off the edge of the cliff in my dreams. I found that my scared feeling did not have to do so much with having the ability to care for my mother. That first step meant that I was willing to face my deepest fears and encounter the parts of my human psyche that I detested. I knew that there were fiery emotions within my psyche, yet their power took me by surprise. They were powerful enough to trigger me to act out in ways that felt not just uncontrollable, but mostly unrecognizable to me. This “care bear” experience brought me face to face with deeply buried emotions of outrage and hatred towards death, towards the fact that our lives do end. I had always felt as if I had a solid acceptance of the fact that I, and the people I love, will die. I truly did not expect that I would have such a hard time handling the emotional upheavals of fear, anger, and despair relating to death. Faith and trust, instilled in me by my mother and by my own personal walk with the God of my understanding, gave me the strength to enter into this passage towards death. My sense of curiosity, coupled with the love and respect that I had for my mother, gave me the willingness to walk into my own scary fires of anger, outrage and despair; to face that deep-down knowing that my mother, Eva, would soon disappear, as would I, someday. This book is not just about the day-to-day events that occurred during the last three years of my mother’s life. It was those events that pushed open the doors of my own psyche issues, giving me an experience of unconditional love not just from my mother but mostly, from deep within my own spirit.