At first I could not comprehend that my mom was actually dying. None of us did. She was never sick before, always the strong one taking care of all of us. Some realities are too big to grasp. Once we did understand what was happening though, my father, my sisters, and I found inner reserves of strength, courage, creativity, and caring we did not know we possessed. We became her primary caregivers. It was difficult and painful, but also a great honor to do all that we could to help her when she needed us most.
From that time I learned lessons that I remembered six years later when our father was sick and dying. I recognized sooner this time the crisis that we faced, the seriousness of the situation, the reality that this illness might end in death. And sadly it did. I miss both my parents terribly everyday, but I feel grateful that my sisters and I were able to understand the diagnosis, and that we did not pretend. We accepted the reality that a great change was happening in our lives. Pretending everything will be fine or that it will just go away or that surely technology will fix it for us would have kept us aloof, unavailable, unengaged when our parents needed us to be most alert and active.
For the past year since my father’s death, I have been researching climate change and the rapid deterioration of the atmosphere and the oceans resulting in recurring severe weather events, drought, floods, the extinction and the threat of extinction to some animals and plants, and already the disruption of human lives and even loss of lives. These days I am drawing once again from those inner reserves I discovered during the times my parents were so ill. I have been looking at the diagnosis regarding the planet, and the prognosis is currently grim, not yet hopeless, but dire all the same.
Climate Change to me is very much like living with a seriously ill parent. The reality of a sick planet is almost too great to take in. The earth seems too big to fail. It’s easier to assume all will be okay and to escape into Facebook or the latest YouTube craze or Tweet my way to distraction. But right now I’m beginning to understand that my attention is required. While it is a difficult reality to grasp, I accept that the climate has already changed and will continue to change. As we face these facts, we will find the strength and the will to act. We will have the great honor to help when we are needed most.