It was a beautiful day. The sun was bright in the sky of blue and breezes blew softly by the patio. Whenever I passed the screen door, wind-chimes that dangled from the outside roof twinkled with melodies so dear. Family gathered by my mother’s side. Not many. My father together with my sisters and brothers. Mother sat upright in her favorite rocking chair, determined not to die in the same bed she had spooned my father in for over 56 years. It was her last unspoken gift to him. To this day, I’m not sure he ever got the connection, that final bit of will in her…but, I knew.
Mother’s chair of soft burgundy velvet, a gift from my sister years before was small and shaped to fit her itty-bitty body perfectly. For as long a I remember, it sat under a rose-colored lamp. The same one that shined above her petite head of wavy, graying hair where she knitted ruffled christening gowns for grandchildren, read her Bible daily, and hand-stitched needlepoint quilts for all five of her children grown.
The day was long as my mother struggled between this world and the next. Her breathing became more labored while rays of sun stung the milk-blue of her eyes. I remember finding dark glasses to fit her tiny face. Finally, her body seemed to rest in preparation for her journey to Heaven. Between comforting her and dispensing medication, my sister and I wandered out to the back of the yard where we prayed for God to take her while tears fell to our toes.
That evening, our family sat around the family dining table of walnut colored wood. My father’s seat was the ladder-back chair directly in front of my mother’s resting spot. So close, he could feel the warmth of her body while smelling the scent of her breath. Softly we spoke, reminiscing about the years gone by. We laughed about little things while listening to Mother’s favorite music from dark speakers connected to an older CD player in the foyer, nearby.
It seemed to be the first time in a week that we had time to sit down together. Minutes to share love and respite from the emotional toil of a soon-to-be, finality. Fluted paper plates in a Thanksgiving theme held our dinner of take-out tacos made of golden corn. Shredded green lettuce, yellow cheddar cheese and red salsa on the side. Between bites, my father’s hand reached behind his chair to gently touch the nape of my mother’s neck. A silent gift of love and loyalty from him to her. What message was in that simple touch? Their many years together would be ending soon. How my heart ached for this humble father of mine who wanted nothing more than to love my mother forever and always!
Joining hands in prayer, we asked God to ease my mother’s suffering. Peaceful lyrics continued to give us a sense of strength in the background while wind-chimes of brass and glass danced to music a few feet away. So close were the sounds of our voices together with the melodies, that I wondered if my mother could hear all that was comforting and familiar to her? If so, perhaps it would help her transition into God’s afterlife?
A few minutes later the phone rang. Wiping his hands free of taco crumbs, my father answered it. On the other end was my youngest brother, who lived about an hour away. He was of course, calling to check on Mom. In that very second we learned that she was gone. “Oh, my God,” my father said, in anguish. Through tears, my ‘baby’ brother responded, then. “Dad, I had a feeling. I just knew…..My other brother, who was with us let out a the most terrible wail. Deep and guttural like the cry of an animal. I shall never forget it. His heart shattered into a million pieces, scattering them to the wooden floor below.
By then, my mother’s soul was surely being carried by Angels to the Stairway of Heaven. Instinctively and without thinking, I removed the clear, stiff oxygen tube from her soft, delicate nose. It was no longer needed and she hated it so. At last, my mother could breathe freely on her own.
She Breathes Freely with God in Heaven Above. I love you, Mom.