By the time I reached my mother, she was nearly unresponsive. She would open her eyes when I spoke but then they immediately rolled back into her head. The nurses said it was the morphine. Supposedly she could still hear me.
Once she was unresponsive, she did not eat or drink. There were no feeding tubes as this was hospice and, well, she was there to die.
It felt barbaric watching her wither. Her breathing becoming shallower. I wondered whether we had made the right call; keeping her off life support, refusing to fight for life.
I talked to her some though it was awkward because I’m not good at monologues. I did small things like clean her mouth as it became dry. At some point, I looked at her phone for a glimpse into the life that I didn’t know that well. For the most part, I just looked at her and thought about our life together and what she had done for me. It felt good to dwell on those things.
I stayed with her for five days, leaving on the fifth for the long drive home.
She died on the seventh.
* * * *
We gathered the boys for a ‘family meeting’ in the front room of the house. I have called this room different names as I always tend to forget which one I am supposed to use. Perhaps I used the “Family Room”. It had two couches, two chairs, and a fireplace that didn’t work.
Once all the boys came in and found a place to sit, I remember looking around the room at each of them. Each one was sitting in a way that fit his personality.
I then told them that Meemaw had died. Liam said he was going to guess that was the reason I was calling the meeting. Jude said he was sorry. For a minute, we all fell silent.
There was no warning. So when Miles passed gas like a trumpet player giving the last hurrah, its abruptness was jarring. For about one second, we looked at each other in stunned silence. Then everyone laughed.
It was the kind of laugh that brings you together.
* * * *
I now like to wake up early and go downstairs for coffee and Quiet Time before the boys come down like a crash of rhinos.
Miles can now pour his cereal. He can pour the milk too unless the gallon is full, in which case his little arms shake under the weight and milk tends to splash on the table.
This morning was mini-wheats. It didn’t take long before there was a shout of disbelief mixed with excitement.
“Dad, come look at this!”
In his bowl was a quadruple mini-wheat. Sometimes, two mini-wheats were fused together. These were fun to find but not altogether uncommon. This though, where four mini-wheats had been fused together, was something neither one of us had seen before.
“This is amazing!” he exclaimed. “Can you take a picture of it? “
So I did.
“Can I save it?” he asked.
“No,” I replied “it will become gross.”
“Ok,” he said I’m just going to look at it while I eat.”
“That sounds like a good idea,” I agreed.
* * * *
With the warming of the weather, Katie and I took to reclaiming our yard from the wild growth that comes with a house that was in foreclosure and untended. The front planter was where we made the most headway, so it was there we liked to work. Some of the other areas were overwhelming.
At one point, I noticed the Japanese maple in the front planter had two different leaves, some green and hard, some purple and wispy. I texted David and told him about the strange hybrid plant.
When David did come over, it was so our kids could swim in the pool together. I drug him to the strange tree. Upon examination, he told me it wasn’t one tree, it was two. The green maple had grafted onto the purple one and was overtaking it. While the purple grew slowly, the green grew fast. My cool hybrid was actually a struggle for life.
I had to make a decision. Which tree did I want to save? What kind of tree did I want?
I liked the green one because the colors were vibrant, the purple’s wispiness almost made it seem ephemeral.
However, the space it was in would not well accommodate the green tree. The time and place made the choice easy.
I enjoyed the hybrid for a couple of more days.
Then, I cut the green one off of the purple one.
* * * *
“Everything happens for a reason.” That’s what many people seem to say when we talk about those things which are painful. I’m not sure this saying is true because there’s a lot of randomness in the world.
In his book The Divine Dance, Richard Rohr says “All love, goodness, and holiness is a reflected gift. You take all things into yourself by gazing with reverence…”
For me recently, the desire to find meaning in things has taken a backseat to the need to be simply present. Being in the moment has felt right.
Gazing is something that happens in the present, and maybe it ties things together with meaning.
When I’m present, I can feel God in the moments no matter what is going on. And looking back, I know God’s Divinity was in all of it, even in the asterisks.