Janette (right) with her mother (left).

Mother’s Day (12 May) has taken on new meaning for me this year. My wonderful mother is still very much alive and well, but we are beginning a new relationship.

Aged 102 last month, she has lived with my husband and I since 2007, and we all assumed that would be the case until God called her home. Although we would wish that to continue, we are starting to face a new reality. As carers, we are ageing too. This was always something that belonged to the future, but now we have to accept new circumstances. This continues to be a difficult lesson for me. I’ve been Mum’s chief carer for 17 years and now I have to consider my own health and wellbeing and to commence new provisions for Mum’s future care, beginning with a few weeks in respite care. I realise many of you may have already faced this situation and done so gracefully and well. I struggle with adjusting my expectations with recognising the need to ensure she receives the best possible care.

A child of the Great Depression, born in 1922, one of nine children (with her oldest brother succumbing to the Spanish Flu at 14 month), and her father becoming unemployed, Mum knew what it was like to be considered poor and, despite the obstacles, managed to remain at school until she was 13 and then left to find employment.

Her marriage to my father was a very happy one, beginning in 1942, as he sailed to New Guinea as an anti-aircraft gunner. He did not return until 1946. These were difficult years, relying on letters to communicate. These were often delayed, highly censored, with large gaps cut out by the censor. Imagine not receiving phone calls, texts or SMSs during that time, but their love endured.

After Dad’s death at 83, Mum came to live in our home. I’ve been extremely privileged to enjoy these happy years together. Our relationship has changed slightly from that of parent to child to a much more even relationship where we’ve shared intimately. Now I have to assume more of the parent role to ensure my Mum’s future care as we search for new pathways together.

Flora MacKillop.

These days, I’m reflecting on the relationship between Saint Mary MacKillop and her mother, Flora. Similar to my Mum, Flora always encouraged Mary to follow where God was leading. She contributed to the work of the Sisters, often helping with fundraising efforts. She also provided a quiet voice of wisdom in difficult times. Also similar to my Mum, Flora became an avid letter writer, so that Mary was kept abreast of family matters even though distance separated them. Mary did not have the luxury of accompanying her mother through older age due to Flora’s premature death through shipwreck, but their love endured beyond Flora’s death.

I draw comfort now in knowing my Mum is beloved of God who is looking forward to welcoming her home unafraid.

Janette Dobson
Josephite Companion