But now with the husband gone and the children grown, her body, stiff and hard, gives in to the insidious invader that travels its pathways unhindered and sets up outposts, first in her back and now in her brain.
She’s still funny, this woman who used to fill my mind with stories of kings and queens and ancient mariners, who built real domed igloos out of blocks of frozen snow and taught us to find the reclusive jack-in-the-pulpit in early spring.
We laugh as I threaten to pop a wheelie with her wheelchair as we head toward the door marked Pet Scan. Although a grandmother myself, I say, “Ah, Mommy, my pet, now we’re all going to know what you’re made of.”
My sister Jan, who takes care of our mother, had been telling me about mom’s sudden and rapid descent into disconnect, but I couldn’t imagine the woman I had seen just weeks before could be that bad.
“Well, for example,” Jan said, “I told her she was too close to the edge of the bed, so she rolled over on her side, and then stopped and looked at me and asked, “Did you just give me a suppository?”
We laughed and laughed and then we sighed.
During the night I heard voices. Jan, who was not feeling well herself, said, “Mom’s crying.”
Shaking off my sleep, I entered her room. Frustrated between hanging on and letting go, she obsessed about the items on her nightstand: glasses, pills, flashlight and a paper with the name of the kind bereavement counselor—the last representatives over which she had control.
I crawled into bed, wrapped my arms around her and talked about fun memories and the stinky things of life and hope in the Lord. On her wall facing us next to a picture of her and her parents is a picture of Jesus.
As I prayed over her, I saw her in heaven, her outer shell cracking and hurling off in fragments as her new body emerged full and ripe with the creativity to paint and express beauty and let go of hanging on.
Later I tell her the image. She “sees” it, her eyes open wide. “Yes!” she says and falls asleep.