Barbara lost her mother on Sunday, my birthday. She told me on Thursday that she was having her mother evaluated for hospice care, and three days later her mom was gone.
I called my parents that day – my father at the patio home they share and my mom on the cell in her temporary room in the nursing wing – but never reached them. That’s the first birthday my parents have missed.
They didn’t really miss it. They sent a check a month earlier. But I think I’ve seen the last of carefully chosen Talbott’s blouses for work, or Chico’s knits for the weekend. No more books about Downton Abbey or the latest Ian McEwan novel. No more personal we know what our daughter likes sort of gifts.
When I thanked my mom for the check, a month before my birthday, she asked, “did you have a big cake?”
Julie lost her mother two weeks ago. I had seen her husband’s Facebook pictures of the frozen Maine coast before hearing the news, and had wondered why she and David went north from Texas in February this year.
Andi lost her mother last year after a long and painful fight with ALS. She celebrated her mother’s life with joy and the knowledge that she lives on eternally, but I’m sure there is a hole in her heart, nevertheless. Does she feel it when she’s alone in the kitchen with a cup of tea, soft snow falling outside?
Dyana lost her grandmother last November, and heard the quiet after, like the calm after the hurricane. “As if nothing had happened at all,” she writes.
I recently learned that at the end of life, those who are dying sometimes see and speak to already-deceased family members, something professional care-givers differentiate from hallucinating. It is as if someone has come to escort them through death — and beyond death.
Do I still need proof?
Someone has come to escort them through death — and beyond.
Dyana’s grandmother spoke to her brothers and sisters. She called for them to take her. She went willingly with them.
Who will come for me?
Faith tells me that when I die I will look into the face of God. Perhaps my mother will take my hand and lead me there. Perhaps, though she has now forgotten my birthday, then she will remember every moment we shared.
Perhaps it takes a hand to hold, a human hand, to walk this path. To hear God’s voice calling my name, like my mother calling me home from play in the New Jersey twilight. Home to dinner. To family gathered around the table. Home to where all is forgiven, and all is made whole again and nothing is lost. Home at last.