Today is about the middle of the end of the end. It is about profound shifts. It is about bravery, and fear, and letting go.
Three years ago, it was Thanksgiving . My mom’s best friend visited one more time in the morning. She and my mom sang together again and hugged for the last time. We all watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and many of my mom’s friends from The Falls came and went during the day. My family sat together, told stories, and laughed. We held my mom’s hand, stroked her face, and kissed her cheek. We told her how much we loved her.
In the early evening, we had Thanksgiving dinner together – cooked by my daughter’s other mom. We were no longer together as partners, but we were (and are, and always will be) family. She and my mom loved each other deeply. My mom proudly introduced her to people as “the best contralto voice I’ve ever heard.” We invited one of my mom’s friends from The Falls – who was sitting alone in her room – to join us. She ate with us, then sat alone with my mom for a long time. The meal was wonderful – memorable. My mom couldn’t eat even a bit of it, not even pureed. It was too hard for her to swallow. She had water in small sips, and lots of ice chips. She had morphine to keep her free of pain.
After everyone else left, I asked my mom if she wanted me to stay with her overnight. She said she did. I knew it. I felt it. It was right. It was our time together. I settled in on a chair next to her, and we talked. We laughed some, and cried a little. Her favorite caregiver was with us, and my mom and I felt safe and secure.
In the middle of the night, as I held her hand, my mom moaned, “Mama! Papa!” I stroked her forehead, and quietly said, “you really want to see them again, don’t you?” I reminded her of my belief that she would. She responded, “I’m a scaredy-cat.” I told my mom – my Mama – that she was the bravest person I knew. I added, “on the other side of fear is just peace, Mama.” She became calmer, and I hope and pray somewhat soothed.
A few hours later, she became non-responsive, although still breathing. I sat next to her, wondering how long she would stay in this world. The caregiver told me that my mom still had a lot of life in her, and wouldn’t leave that night. As I sat close to my mom, I wrote my first haiku for her – a practice that would continue for more than a year.
Sitting with my mom
in this holiest of times
as her life force ebbs.