These are some reflections I wrote six years ago, on Mother’s Day, 2010… less than three weeks before our Mom passed away. It is the first time I have shared them publically.
“Do you know what today is?” my brother asks. He stands beside Mom’s bed, holding her hand, while I, sitting on the other side, put a straw to her lips for a sip of water.
I put the cup down and rub her other hand. “Hey, Mom, who’s that? Do you know who that is?”
She murmurs something that is hard to make out, but I’m sure it’s “Ron,” and I look at my brother and smile. She said his name. That’s good.
We have come here by a road of twelve years length. It has been a sloping road that plunged Mom into sightless twilight over a decade ago (even as her spiritual eyes grew more beautifully focused). Along with her blindness, other health problems weighed her down along the rugged path. Then – so gradually that we never marked the turning – the brambles started gathering around her mind, casting deepening shadows there as well.
It has been a hard-packed road, rock-strewn and painful in stretches, yet relatively straight, leading downward by a steady, gradual incline punctuated at moments by such sudden drops that we thought we would plummet straight to the bottom, only to plateau out into the next soon-to-grow-familiar landscape. Always on the decline, always in dusk.
Yet we’ve walked it together, we three. Always together.
Others have walked by our side, as well. And though the path has been in darkness, it has passed through evening meadows, sweet scented with the kindness of friends and of God.
Nor ever once have I felt we were lost.
We can’t see the end of the road from here – probably won’t until we’re nearly upon it. But we know from the way the cliff walls are rising tall and narrowing in around us that it can’t be far.
We know because now it’s a good, big thing that she said Ron’s name.
And so here we stand, close at Mom’s side. Like it’s always been, in a way, only now physically.
“This is a special day,” Ron says, leaning closer. “It’s Mothers Day. And you’re our mother, so we have to give you a card.” His voice is strong, cheery.
He places an envelope in her hand. “Do you feel that? It’s like a piece of paper.”
“It’s an envelope,” I add, from the other side. (I never could keep secrets long, and I tend to be too helpful.)
“Let’s open it,” Ron says, taking the envelope. He pulls the card out and sets it on Mom’s hand. It falls, ungrasped, on the blankets. I put it in her hand again.
“Let’s read it,” says Ron, and he does.
“Isn’t that nice?” I say.
“Yeah,” says Mom.
“We sure love you,” I say. “Ron sure loves you. Wasn’t that nice of Ron to get you a card?”
My brother had told me a few days ago that he might get her a card, as much for the sake of tradition on this, our very probably last Mothers Day. As much for us, as for her.
I didn’t say anything when he told me. If it was important to him, I understood. A card seemed kind of pointless to me; she could barely understand simple yes-no questions, let alone open or hold or get any meaning from a card.
Yet when he read it aloud tonight, my heart soared. It was such a perfect card. This was so right!
And when I’d asked if it was nice, she’d said, “Yeah.”
This was a good, big thing.
At the beginning of the day, it had seemed like a strange, rather meaningless Mother’s day, in which Mom couldn’t participate or even be aware of what day it was. It would be the same sips of water the same spoonfuls of the applesauce she likes. There was really nothing we could do to celebrate with her.
While Mom slept, attended by a caregiver, I’d gone to church, wearing my grandmother’s ring and Mom’s locket, in honor of them. It seemed like the best I could do. Mom wasn’t gone. But neither was she here enough to celebrate.
Then Ron gave her the card. And I realized… this was it!
Not the card, but the giving of the card.
My brother and I were here beside her bed, when she couldn’t rise, or dress, or share a meal, when she could barely communicate. The “here-ness” of us – our presence… that was our celebration.
By being here, we celebrated our mom who raised us to understand that those who cannot feed themselves are still valuable. Who cared for her mom, even after they had “issues.” Who made lap quilts for old people in nursing homes that got no visitors, and taught us to give our outgrown toys away while they were still nice because there were kids who didn’t have any toys – and we were no better than they, only luckier.
Simply by being here, we were celebrating Mother’s Day with Mom.
Soon the path will fall paradoxically into unimaginable heights, where there will be no more night.
When all is bright again, I doubt that Mom will recall the card. But I feel sure that she will know, as she does even now amidst the gathering night, that we were here.