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  • Nanworimo 2009

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  • Seven Years

    I have too little and too much to say on this anniversary of my Mother’s passing. I’ve been thinking more lately about the chaos of when she was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer, nine days before my wedding, four short months before she died.

    But to commemorate this anniversary, I will reprint a vignette I wrote last year. I hope to work into a full memoir someday — right now it is just a short scene that happened a few days before she died. It captures, I think, the sweetness of how she lived and how she died.

    Four Days Left

    Mom cooperates sweetly during her bedtime ritual, even trying to pee when she is uncomfortable and doesn’t really have to go. After she is clean and tucked-in, we gather around the hospital bed Dad set up in the guest bedroom. Mom’s been unable to leave this room for the past week, since a stroke made it hard for her to move on her own. She can no longer speak in whole sentences, sometimes not finding a single word she needs. Even so, she says goodnight as best she can to each of us standing around her bed. We kiss her one by one, turn out the light, then adjourn to the kitchen, exhausted, for tea and quiet conversation about the day, her meds, what she managed to eat.

    Mom calls to us a few minutes later. Margaret and Sarah go in to see what she wants. Dad and I enter the room a minute later, and see Mom desperately trying to communicate something to Margaret and Sarah. Mom looks relieved to see me, since I often can guess what she wants to say. I walk around the bed to her right side, her good side, take hold of her right hand in both of mine, and look into her eyes.

    “What do you need, Mom?”

    “All together.” She says slowly, emphatically, trying to lift her head as if to prove her point. “Here. All together.”

    She’s been wanting to pray more lately, especially since the visiting minister from Central Lutheran Church brought her communion last week. I think she was surprised at how healing it was to make peace with a church that had disappointed her so much over the years. And I suspect she found more comfort than she anticipated in her old rituals.

    I ask, “Do you want us all to say a prayer with you, Mom?”

    “Yes!” She leans back into the pillows, closes her eyes, and breathes a heavy sigh of relief.

    “Do you want me to sing?” She doesn’t answer, just smiles with her eyes still closed, exhausted.

    I’ve been singing to her a lot lately, especially a version of the 23rd Psalm written by Bobbi McFerrin for his mother. I think Mom likes it because he uses the feminine pronoun to refer to God. I also think she likes the fact that I once recorded it on CD when I sang with a women’s a cappella ensemble years ago – she was so proud. It’s designed to be sung in seven-part harmony. I have simplified it to a single line of melody.

    We form a circle holding hands, shoulders, arms, whatever we can reach over the hospital bed, some sitting, some standing. I begin.

    The Lord is my shepherd, I have all I need.
    She makes me lie down in green meadows,
    Beside the still water, She will lead.

    Mom nods her head, smiling, between each line, saying, “Yes! Yes! That’s true!”

    She sets a table before me in the presence of my foes.
    She anoints my head with oil and my cup overflows.

    “So true!”

    She restores my soul, she writes my wrongs.
    She leads me on a path of good things
    And fills my heart with song.
    Even though I walk through a dark and stormy night.
    There is nothing that can shake me
    She has said she will not forsake me I’m in her hands.

    “Yes. Yes.”

    Surely, surely goodness and kindness will follow me
    All the days of my life.
    And I will dwell in her house forever, forever and ever.
    Glory be to the Mother, and Daughter, and to the Holy of Holies.
    As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be
    World without end. Amen.

    I am in terrible voice, but it doesn’t matter. Mom is beaming.

    We kiss her good night once again. Dad, as always, gets the last lingering moment with her, nose to nose, whispering that their love is a star in heaven that will last forever. Satisfied, Mom sighs deeply and turns over on her side. Dad turns out the light.

    We all sit quietly in the living room, slightly stunned. Mom’s childlike voice travels down the hall.

    “Goodbye,” she says sweetly to the dark. “Goodbye.”

    The Life of Reilly

    Despite the bleak picture of my life I write here, I do get out once in a while. Last Saturday, for instance, Jay and I went to see “The Life of Reilly,” the incredible documentary of Charles Nelson Reilly’s one-man show.

    It is brilliant. Worth every award it wins. Well written, amazingly filmed, beautifully performed by a brilliant actor.

    Check out the very fun website for clips and show times. Support independent film!

    PS: Charles died on May 25, 2007 at age 76. He was survived by partner of 27 years, Patrick Hughes. Read his NY Times obituary here.

    Here’s the proof!

    I’ve done it!

    After lots of drama, two crashed hard drives, and a three-day migraine, I finished writing 50K words for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). (See http://www.nanowrimo.org for more information about the event). I really thought I wasn’t going to make it, but thanks to good friends, old and new, I screwed up my courage and, as my friend David Bridger suggested, wrote like the wind. I finished last night, after which I printed out my winner’s certificate (everyone who finishes is a winner and gets said certificate).

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