The June wind stirred the chimes out on the front porch, its six notes sounding randomly in that sorrowful soundtrack life seems to have been writing this past week. For some of us, this is not the fairy-tale story or that one with the happy ending.
I stumbled into the bathroom this morning and saw the image of a young old man staring back at me from the mirror hanging above the sink. The few grey hairs I’d been noticing lately seem to have multiplied tenfold, and the lines which previously had been weakly etched across my face now seemed to line it like that of a well-used roadmap.
Life was a highway—I was a municipality.
My mother lie in bed, her breaths coming in labored gasps. She took hold of my hand and gazed at me through her one good eye. Every breath she took I was sure was to be her last.
“Bummer,” she croaked from somewhere deep in her throat, attempting a smile in one of her lucid moments—which were rapidly becoming more and more infrequent.
“That’s an understatement,” I replied.
Really, it was.
The grip of her hand tightened around mine. How many hours had I sat here? I’d lost count. The only way I’ve been able to even track the days was by reminding her every time she woke what day it was, what time it is, where she was. She doesn’t ask, but I tell her all the same. If it were me, I’d want to know.
The worst part is that emotion—that dreadful little feeling of helplessness, that deep understanding that there is nothing I can do—I can only be. Doing is the easy part; it’s the being that is the hard thing.
It’s so much easier to run someplace, to buy something, to go on an errand; but to simply be there…that is the hard part. To be there when her eyes open, to see her when she smiles or grimaces, murmurs disembodied thought, and falls back asleep; and through it all, to not have the ability to stay the inevitable.
She asked today, “Am I going to die?”
“We all are,” I responded a few moments later, choking on my sullen reply. “All of us will one day die.”
There have been days now, days when the bitter fount of tears has been emptied and dried. Tears become no longer an option; they become something more of a luxury, like a well run dry in summer’s oppressive heat.
In the quiet of the back room I held her hand, the hot tears stinging my cheeks yet again from sources unknown. She continually faded in and then out of consciousness, her requests slogged and pieced together in a mismatch of jumbled words.
I simply held on to her hand; I could only be…there was no to do.
I found myself becoming angry at God in watching this suffering go on without recourse; I found myself questioning that which I knew—that which I’d always believed. If God really were merciful, he should either heal her, or let her die.
God—I unpremeditatedly decided—was cataclysmically cruel.
I felt a nettling anger surge within me, bitterness directed at heaven itself, at the God who allowed such suffering.
“What is your faith made from?”
I was taken aback at the thought which pervaded my mind—a whispered rivulet.
What? I thought in return.
“This is but a moment of time; if you remember, My son suffered for a moment, too.”
But that’s different, I countered. You’re God.
“Not while he was on the cross…she has you, but My son was left alone—if you remember. Now you have the smallest idea of what it was like for Me when he was helpless, and I could only watch when he was crying out in anguish.”
Then let it be finished. I thought. Let it be finished.
“When it’s time.”
The oxygen machine continued to drone in its rhythmic pattern as I held onto Mom’s hand.
For now, I can only be.