Oh, the gold! The gold!
Oh, the light! The glorious light!
Colors, so bright.
Oh, the gold! Oh, the light!
I didn’t want to raise the covers. I didn’t want ANYONE to raise them. I didn’t want to see the discolored skin, the swollen, weeping limbs. It was enough to be told what to “expect”.
I would choose my memories.
Although she laid there, a prisoner of closed eyes and dry, unruly tongue, Mom still comforted me with her soft, warm hands.
Shouldn’t her hands be cold?
What I wanted most in those moments, was to impart peace to her. I couldn’t bare the thought of her being afraid. So, I took my turn at her bedside, holding her hand. I did what Dad always said I did often…I talked.
“Mamaw Helen is waiting for you, Mom. I’ll bet she is getting ready for a big celebration! She’s in her kitchen in heaven, and she is cooking a big dinner. I’ll bet she’s making you a big pot of that vegetable soup that you love, the soup that she canned from the garden, remember? Nobody else could ever make soup like that. She’s making that for you, and she’s frying potatoes, too! She will probably fix those soup beans for everyone else, but, for you, she’s fixing your favorite vegetable soup.”
“I’ll bet she is running around, cleaning and getting ready. Remember those what-nots we had to dust before every holiday? She probably has angels dusting her what-not shelves right now, getting ready for you.”
Tears slid down from both closed eyes, and her already soft grip on my hand loosened.
I wanted to hear her voice. I wanted to know her thoughts. I wanted to have a conversation about heaven, now that her entrance was imminent, but the time for conversation had passed.
She had struggled with the choices presented by the doctors. Either go to Lexington for a surgery that she would, most likely, not survive, or receive hospice care. She was so tired of fighting, but she fought hard to stay with her family. She was afraid.
After choosing hospice and having the intravenous nutrition stopped, she asked Dad, several times, “Have I made the right decision?”
His countenance strained with his own struggle as he answered, “Trisha, I think you did.”
Comfort meds took the place of life-sustaining efforts and, soon after, she lost her abilities to speak and hold open her eyes. Her open mouth revealed a tongue that still tried to talk, and her eyelids still fluttered, occasionally, but her body failed her further.
It was bittersweet, but mostly beautiful, when my dad, of few words, stood at Mom’s bedside. He bent his already stooped frame over her, cradling her head with his arm. Tears flowed down his face, hitting her pillow. With his lips close to her ear, he pleaded, “Tell me you love me, Baby.”
Their tears mingled in the atmosphere, and their life-long love story climaxed.
We were there with her: Dad, Dean, and me. I had let go of her hand, and sat on the couch, next to Dad’s bedside chair. My brother, Dean, sat on the opposite side of the bed. We were waiting, still hoping she would open her eyes at some point. The doctor’s best guess was that she had a couple more days, at the most.
It was Dean who saw her last breath.
When he said that, our eyes met across her tiny, still form, and I knew. I got up and walked to his side of the bed. I watched her chest for movement. I watched her lips, her tongue. Nothing. The outer corner of her closed left eye twitched three times, but she took in no more breath.
Here, then gone. No more tears. No more pain, anguish, or confusion. No more worries that someone was mad at her for reasons beyond her understanding. No more reliving feuds and fusses. No more fretting over Sundays of unfed family. No more submission to an uncooperative body.
Gone from here.
“Oh, Mom. She’s gone,” was all I could say.
I laid my hand on her warm forehead. I smoothed her hair back.
Oh, how she had wanted her hair washed, only three days ago.
I took her hand again, and it was even warmer than it had been earlier. That brought me comfort. Mom didn’t like being cold.