Saturday, May 09, 2009
I have never seen her in bed before this. Not in illness. Only in sleep.
This is not my mother, grief intrudes, denies reality. This is an old woman. I recognize her from the nursing home. Every other room, the beds contained this woman. But, no. This is Momma’s bed and there she lies. Gaunt, jaundiced, a distended torso - juxtaposition of the womb’s purpose: to nurture and release - now gathers and retains toxic fluid.
Ah, but then she opens those watery blue eyes and her flicker of joyful recognition mirrors mine. The agape of my life. My first taste, in utero, of “unconditional.” The lifelong living declaration of devotion.
For the first time ever. Old.
Before her time, cancer etches the abyss of pain across her furrowed brow. She fights well. She runs for the finish. She keeps faith.
Hospice women do God’s work: bathe, assess, support. I watch in a blur and learn, lend my heart, chisel her dignity into my memory, scavenge bookshops for self-help books on surviving the death of love.
It was only right that the only daughter be here to walk hand in hand with Momma during her dying days. We treasure each of the rapidly moving moments; wheel together on the sidewalk, swing on the porch, share a last, unpalatable supper, a favorite frozen yogurt. She’s weary, she endures for me but prays to go back and rest. We lay side by side, discuss disappointments and delights.
Her decline is more rapid than the time it formerly took to fill a table with refreshments for unexpected visitors. Her last mothering words, as she rests in the recliner, raises her hands toward heaven: “Just give it all to Jesus.”
Mother’s Day was May 12, 1996. Rest in the Father’s arms, dear one. You are His cherished child, the embodiment of His love. I miss you every single day.