Saturday, May 09, 2009
I've never seen her in bed like 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 room there, the beds contain this woman. But this is Momma’s bed, in her own home, and there she lies.
For the first time ever. Old.
Ah, but then she opens those watery blue eyes and her flicker of joyful recognition mirrors mine. The agape of my life. My first sense, in utero, of “unconditional.” The lifelong living declaration of devotion.
Before her time, cancer etches the abyss of pain across her furrowed brow. She fights well. She strains for the finish. She keeps faith.
Gaunt, jaundiced; the distended torso--a juxtaposition of the womb’s purpose to nurture and release--now gathers and retains toxic fluid.
Hospice women do God’s work: come and go, quiet, reverent, bathe, assess, support. I watch in a blur and learn, lend my heart.
It is only right that the only daughter sit here hand in hand with Momma during her dying days. I treasure each of the slow motion moments; wheel together down the sidewalk, swing on the porch, share a favorite frozen yogurt after an unpalatable supper. She’s weary, she endures for me but prays to go back and rest. We lay side by side, discuss disappointments and delights. I chisel her dignity into my memory, then while she sleeps I scavenge bookshops for self-help books on surviving the death of love.
Her decline is more rapid than the time it formerly took her 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.”
We said goodbye on Mother’s Day, May 12, 1996. Rest in the Father’s arms, dear one.