The melancholy rains of March fall about me. Gray skies cry soft, cooling tears that sweep over me and through me. I walk in the early hours, Pup at my side, as the heavens speak tenderly. This morning, as my own tears mix in bittersweet union with the rain, I have questions of eternity in my heart and in my bones.
My mother is leaving, and I quietly plead with her not to go, yet I know I cannot—should not—try to halt her. She must be on her way. My mother, a strong and extraordinary woman, is surely ready to depart. I visit her each evening, and I watch her sleeping soundly. Morphine keeps the pain away, and I feel blessed that she is no longer writhing in anguish, a torment I was powerless to heal. No longer taking food or water, death holds quiet vigil not far away. She has not opened her eyes for me in three days, and it is hard to understand that I may not gaze upon her sweet hazel eyes again. I kiss her forehead softly as I whisper to her, “Momma, I am here. Momma, your Charli is here.” There is no response, and I scoop my arms about her. I place my face against her chest, a child grown older and a mother passing on. Sobbing racks my being, and tears soak the soft, pale sheets. There is never a right time–never a good time–to lose a mother, to lose a love. A friend is at my side, and I feel his strong and tender touch upon my back. My tears subside into quiet waves of grief, and I am still. Silence waits. Eyes blurred and burning, I sit up slowly. Brushing tear-bathed strands of hair from my cheeks, I stare at her quietly. With searching intensity, I soak in every fragment of the vision before me. I want her countenance etched into my brain, I want her spirit chiseled upon my soul. Her skin, somehow unlined despite her years, is now flushed a soft pink. I follow the curve of her eyebrows and the gentle hollow under her eyes. I will her to wake again so that I can feel her bright eyes upon me. She is still. In her coma-like state, she often forgets to breathe, and–with a willful shudder–her breath rises again. Ever so gently, I dab salve upon her beautiful, rose-hued lips. I trace her strong jaw with my fingers. My jawline is like hers; both are strong and true. My fingertips move to follow the beautiful arch of her cheekbones; she passed these very bones on to me. I move her arms and hands out gently from beneath the sheets. They are warm and relaxed, free of pain and strife. I place the careworn hands that worked so hard and long into my own. Two pair of hands, yet one. Her skin has become whisper-thin, and I tenderly stroke the strong, yet delicate, bones of her fingers, wrists, and arms. She is within–and not within–these earthly bones. Her breathing, once again, is still. I must watch helplessly as her strength and light fade away.
Oh, this is no easy task, this letting go. A bolt of fury rises in me, a childlike rage at what seems the sheer inequity of life, of death. I want what I cannot have; I want my mother with me always. Yet, as quickly as my anger rose, it fades away back into love. I know, within, that I will always have her with me. She is love. She is what I know. In my foggy head a memory of Helen Keller’s words arises, “What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” But words, like raindrops, often seem to fall away leaving little trace of having been. And, yet, I pull the simplest bits back to me and whisper, “I won’t ever lose you, you are part of me.” I wrap my arms about her once again and rest, still, upon her breast.
And so it is with love. It washes into our blood, and it lives within our bones. I was imprinted by her and loved by her, this woman of deep determination and pride. Such a force of nature with her tenacity and fierce ways, she gave her all. Ten children, not one of them easy, kept her running and not free. Yet, somehow, she made space in her heart for each one of us. I learned at her side, I saw—firsthand—how to be. A love-filled woman of integrity, determination, and humility. A dedicated mother of tenacity, strength, and tempered ferocity. Imperfect, yes, as we all are in so many ways, yet I choose to bathe in love’s offerings. I choose to bathe in her love–and all the love that comes my way. With open arms and tear-filled eyes, I know love comes with pain.
I will visit my sweet mother again this evening. And I shall whisper another farewell into her ear. May it not be my last. But, if it is, I know where she resides. She is now, and always, in my bones.
***And what better testament to love, to life, that she will be so sorely missed.***