We never know our end. Will it be sudden? Will we get to say goodbye? Will it be pain or peace? Old or not so very?
Mom’s last years were like slow rolling hills. I couldn’t climb high enough to see where the road might lead. The valleys housed questions about life and death, mirky like shadows with undefined edges. No defined peaks to fall from and no great oceans to cross. One parched step after another with no view except to the present.
Something in me had to shift. Logic and reason were spattered drops against this vague umbrella called dementia. My weary heart had to step up. The habitual daily race slowed to sticky honey when I looked into Mom’s eyes. She was in there, unfairly jailed by the misfiring synapses of her brain. Was she screaming inside? Did she think me an idiot when I didn’t respond correctly to her garbled tongue? Did she notice the rain, the sun, the birds singing? I imagine her patient soul, waiting… and waiting.
These final years with Mom were long but they were sweet. Too often I’d hear well intentioned condolences of how hard it must be to see her that way, but it wasn’t hard. She was my mother and had loved me through every phase of my life. With the exception of two plus months after her move into a new care facility when I watched her lose her last finger hold on the edge of reality and fall screaming into the void (those two plus months when I cried and prayed for her swift death at the bottom of that fall), our time together held sweetness and joy. Moments of connection were pure delight that would ring in my heart for days at a time.
Little did I know how much she would crack open my heart in the time it took to unwind from this, her lifetime. Letting go one strand at a time, dying as she had lived, tenacious and strong to the end and reminding me that death, like birth, happens in it’s own time and time becomes meaningless.
On the day Mom died I bought a wrap of soft silver-grey with fine gold angel strands running through it. I’ve kept it close these tender days, wrapping myself in the cloth of her love, listening to cello music and feeling her soul dance with every note.