Moms are tough to say goodbye to.
Within six weeks of receiving a diagnosis of brain cancer, my mom went on to glory.But in that time we got to enjoy her in ways that all our old roles and family dynamics had clouded.
In the process, I learned there are ways to give dignity in spite of the indignities of dying, there are times to laugh in spite of the sorrow of goodbye, and there are memories to be recounted in spite of the end of new ones.
During her last week, four of us, my brother and his wife, my sister, and I were present around the clock, each of us trying to minister comfort as we each thought best. (Sometimes conflicting, but being grown-ups and not wanting to cause a fuss and have our mother rise up and scold us, we settled our differences by going to our own corners until the cloud passed by.)
My brother has an incredible memory. He sat on one side of the bed, I on the other, and told story after story. Mom looked as though she were asleep or unconscious, but in the manner of mothers—she heard a whole lot more than we thought.
“Remember when we’d sneak into the pantry (which was stuffed with treasures) and take out Dad’s WW II bayonet?” Mike said. “We weren’t supposed to touch it but you and I loved to go in and get it.”
“Remember when we went up White Face Mountain and Mom crawled on her hands and knees cuz she was afraid of heights?” I said.
“Remember when…” Sometimes a smile would escape her weary face, sometimes a raised eyebrow.
At one point Mom opened her eyes and said in her raspy voice, “I have four eyes. Just thought you’d want to know.”
My sister thought she was trying to tell us she was seeing double, but I wondered if she was warning us that we might want to be careful of confessions!
Reluctantly she relinquished the care of her body over to her children. But at one point when my brother (who had been a medic in the service) told her he was going to give her a suppository, she rolled over and with all the authority of motherhood proclaimed an adamant
“NO.” And no, it was. Sometimes you just don’t argue with Mom.
I don’t know why I never realized how funny she actually was. In defiance of the insidious disease marching through her brain, she’d gather strength to surprise us with her humor. One day we had a problem with the oxygen tube, and she was having trouble breathing. I stood at the foot of the bed with an electric fan.
“Oh Queen Nefertiti, I am your slave,” I said, waving my fan like a palm frond. Mom tried to speak.
My sister, Jan, bent over her. “Marcia, I think she’s trying to tell you something.”
Expecting some profound last words, I leaned in, at which point Mom raised her head up and said loud and clear, “Faster!” And with a satisfied smile lay back down.
We cried with laughter. Oh, Mom.
But now, having gone way over my 400-word blog limit, I end my tribute for today. I still have a few things to say about goodbyes to Mom, like, “Remember the time the two men started coming up the driveway when Mom was all alone? . . .”
Love your mom today.