There was a week in May of momentous, life changing events: my mother had a stroke, my daughter announced I was to be a Grammy, my son got married. I thought my heart would burst with all the sorrow and the joy. God gave grace for each day in the form of family and friends to share the pain and the happiness. I received texts to tell me someone was thinking about us, sometimes it was a short visit from a friend to give a hug, sometimes it was a Facebook comment to remind me of people who cared and knew how to pray. It all reminded me I was not alone, but surrounded by a community of fellow sojourners on this life journey.
Last weekend we prepared for Mom’s arrival home from the rehab center into hospice care. My son and his new bride came over to help move Mom’s queen sized bed out of her bedroom and down to my son’s now-vacated bedroom. The supply company hospice uses brought a hospital bed and installed it in my mother’s bedroom. We also moved two recliners into her room so visitors would have a comfortable place to sit and spend time with Mom.
Now we walk a sacred journey with my mother. It’s not a lonely walk, though. Family, friends, and even strangers will join us on Mom’s final earthly journey. One by one they come to walk alongside my mother for a bit. A friend from the church she and Dad used to attend drove over 100 miles to visit with her. My mother’s face lit up with joy when her friend walked into the room. There wasn’t much conversation on Mom’s part. But she recognized her friend and remembered the visit the next day as well. At her departure, the friend cried and Mom wept, too, even though I don’t think she knew why. I expect there will be many showers on this journey.
Her first week home Mom’s sister from North Carolina arrived. They hadn’t seen each other since my father’s funeral almost 2 years ago–although they talk on the phone regularly. It was such a sweet reunion as my aunt, my daughter, and I gathered around Mom’s bed catching up with family news and reminiscing about the past. We talked about a future visit but I knew in my heart this was probably the last time they would see each other on this side of eternity. These things remained unsaid, though.
Mom’s sons, grandsons and granddaughters, nieces, a sister-in-law, friends will all attend her in the coming weeks. She will lay in her mechanical bed, propped up with pillows as the procession of dear ones come to spend a few moments at her side. The talk is quiet but there are smiles and occasional soft laughter. Her hand is gently held and the kisses placed upon her cheek are gentle caresses. She will not be alone even when there are no visitors because she is surrounded by photos of the ones she has cherished throughout the years. Their happy, smiling expressions speak of the love they hold for Mom.
The room feels like an airy cocoon, and I hope she feels comfortable in it. The walls are a soft pink, the scent of lavender is in the air. A vase of colorful flowers sits within her view. During the day soft sunlight streams through the windows. Though it might seem strange, it is a peaceful place and I enjoy sitting there beside Mom. The silence isn’t empty but filled with a life of love and memories.
Caregivers come each day to bathe and dress Mom. Now I am the assistant and quite willing to be so. Mom lies quietly under their gentle ministrations. I am impressed with their compassionate, skilled care. My own efforts at caring for Mom these past 2 years seem clumsy in comparison. I privately feel a little embarrassed at the memory but there isn’t any shame. I will learn to be more proficient as I watch their movements.
I don’t think Mom understands what is going on. She doesn’t realize she is paralyzed on one side. She thinks she can get out of bed whenever she wants. It doesn’t do much good to tell her she can no longer walk because 5 minutes later she will not remember what I said. What goes on in her mind is a mystery. One day she told me she had made glazed donuts. Not too long ago, I would have tried to help her understand why that was impossible–now I just ask her if I can have one.
More so than ever before I remind myself to take one day at a time. God’s grace is sufficient for each day but not in advance of the days ahead. God does not promise grace for our imaginations. But He does promise to provide the daily portion of what we will need for the day’s journey.
I imagine my mother and all the ones who love her walking with her but mostly behind her on a pleasant path. There is a gentle stream on one side and mountains in the distance on the other side. Ahead of us is a shining city. But the distance between my mother and the gates of that city is unknowable. Some days it seems very close and other days not so much. One day she will complete her sacred journey, and my family and I are grateful to be a part of this time with her.