I’ve poured out my grief through endless words these past few years. Sorrow as big as the universe over so many things. The most solid thing in my world has been my sister doggedly caring for my mother, holding onto her as long as she could for us as if she were a national treasure. She was.
Sunday night we gathered around my mother and sang one last time. I said the prayer she whispered to us every night when she put us to bed. I still say it over my own children when they’re near.
“Jesus tender shepherd hear me
Bless my littlest lamb tonight
Through the darkness be thou near her
Keep her safe till morning light.”
We sang the Lord’s Prayer and repeated the 23rd Psalm. She taught them to each of my children. Taylor could match her tone and vibrato perfectly when he was four.
I captured a recording of my brother’s prayer for my mother and a photo of my sister’s hand in hers. When I came back the next morning to bury my face in her neck and say one last goodbye, I captured Adriana kissing her and Taylor’s girlfriend delivering his final message to her.
Then Adriana drove me home to Montana. She’s my youngest of three girls and a boy. I was my mom’s youngest of three girls and a boy. I wept silently all the way to Ritzville until she played me “Savior’s Shadow.” We sang it over and over.
I was with my mother when she lost hers. We’d driven to San Francisco to visit my grandmother in the hospital where she was suffering from a ruptured spleen. She was only 72. My mother was ten years younger than I am now. I was 7.
We climbed to the floor where we expected to find her but instead were ushered into a waiting room that looked like a hospital scene from “Call the Midwife.” A brown-haired, white-coated doctor quickly came in, sat down in front of my mother, delivered his news in a hushed tone, and left. My mother’s head dropped forward as she slumped in silent anguish. We sat there alone, not saying a word. I can still see it like yesterday. I got a stomach ache that lasted for days—the same stomach ache I have now.
When my dad was sick, I fought the urge to take out my camera and video his prayers. I didn’t want him to think I was giving up on him. What I wouldn’t give to have a recording of those prayers right now to play on repeat. He died this same month fourteen years ago.
In the end we capture nothing. Life slips into our hands, giving us the illusion of control. We nurture it through sleepless nights at both ends of things. Then it slips away again, and all we hear is our own breathing. We ponder when that will end too.
A million stories have been told, but there’s really only Ecclesiastes and Lamentations and figuring out that passage in Micah about doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God. There’s very little peace in our comings and goings. If we’re lucky, we get a few good nights’ sleep.
On the other side of the country, my tiny wisp of a granddaughter is keeping my daughter up nights and looking very much like her beautiful great grandmother who just slipped away for the very last time.
Sleep, baby, sleep. Let your mama Rest In Peace.
March 6, 2019