“See the Moon?”
We stopped, and I guided your gaze to the Sky. The hint of a Smile towards the Moon, waning from full, the dark side turning towards us more each Night.
I didn’t know that was our last Walk.
I was only away one week. As I put in the last of my 2021 work hours, Winter seeped deeper into your Bones.
I didn’t know it would be so quick!
Death in Winter is Nature’s way. But Nature isn’t easy, is she?
The feisty bit of you that remains is hard.
“Swallow, Mama, this is for the pain in your knees.”
You spit out the pill.
“Here, take a bite.”
You jerk away, squish food with your fingers, chew napkins instead.
Upside down and waning light. Broken syllables.
“What do you want, Mama?”
I hear numbers, some are mine.
“Are you trying to remember my phone number?”
You look at me, and I recite my number to you. Three times. You relax. You were always amazing at remembering phone numbers.
Where did all your Words go? Are they still in your Heart? They rattle around in your Head, I think. Sometimes they fall out.
“Syllable, syllable, syllable, money, syllable, do you, syllable, syllable, enough?”
“Do I have enough money? Yes, Mama. I have all the money, we all have all the money we need. We’re fine.”
You are still the world’s biggest Worry Wart. Do you know that sometimes I hold onto difficult news longer than I should, closer to the resolution, because I know you’ll lose sleep over it?
“Don’t worry about us. We’re all fine. Rest, Mama. You can rest.”
We all want Relief.
I had been writing this post in my head for days when my Minister called.
“You know you and your dad will also feel Relief when it’s over, and sometimes that’s hard.”
I had been on the fence about bringing it up. In some iterations I speak it with an accusatory to you and you and you! My Minister’s Words reminded me of the importance of understanding this, so here it is, not from an accusatory defensive stance (I put my accusatory finger away), but to help us all normalize feeling Grief AND Relief.
I’ll say it: we’ll all be relieved when mom finally rests. When she makes the Final Transition.
I won’t apologize for the Relief I feel, Relief from watching this slow Fall, from struggling to help her to the toilet, into bed, from the frustrations… would you just.swallow.the.pill?!
I won’t apologize for the Relief dad will feel when the tedium of ministrations is over. They’re hard. They’re scary.
What if we both fall?
Of course we’ll feel Grief. But honestly, Grief has been dragging a Trench through our Hearts for over a year now. We will welcome the Relief that follows the slow Fall.
Let’s normalize Relief with Grief so that we don’t pack a layer of Shame on top of an already intense bed of Emotions.
Relief for her
The Relief is also for her. Doesn’t she deserve the Relief?
While we’ve been putting in our work hours, driving to the store, doing laundry, making coffee, and making plans, for nearly five years (maybe more!), she’s had a hand on each Horn of this Monstrous Bull as it tosses her about, shaking the Life and Memories right out of her.
Mom deserves the Relief.
So be easy on us when you see that we see the Relief coming, that we pray for it. But also know, we are right her with her, in this Moment, as she shuffles through the last bit of her Journey.
The Words that Come
We won’t walk through the Field tonight. The Winter chill threatens, and your feet don’t remember the steps.
I’ll sit with you, listen for your Words, search my Heart for Words that bring you comfort, my phone number, we have enough money, I’m here.
Oof, you’re heavy mom, as I dress you for bed. We shuffle to the bedside, you futz with the sheets, and I manage to help you scoot in. You point to this and that. I move the Bible, turn off the light, and, when you’re satisfied, I sit next to you.
“I would like to hear you sing.”
No syllable noise. No gravel. A clear complete sentence.
“You want me to sing?”
“Yes.” Clear as a bell.
I didn’t know I was taking my last Walk with you through the Field a couple of weeks ago, but tonight I know, this is probably the last Full Sentence you have for me. I’m grateful I am here for it.
On our Walks, I often sing “I love you a bushel and a peck…” but this seems a little spunky for bedtime. I try to remember the Words I gave to the Brahms lullaby when my kids were young. The Words rattle around in my head, broken, so I just use whatever Words come to me as I sit with you, as you drift off, sweet Sleep, sweet Relief.
I found the Words I used to sing to my Babies (of course, I wrote them down). They are hauntingly appropriate for this post, for this week.
Close your eyes,
When you wake we’ll be older.
Think of me,
I’ll be with you through the night.
If it’s dark,
Watch the sky,
And look for a bright star.
In the dawn
If I’m gone,
I’ll still live in your heart.
(Pennie Nichols, August 1989)
“I love you, Mama. Sweet dreams.”
As I walk home alone through the dark Field, the sliver of Moon has already set, but the Stars fill the Sky and my Heart.
©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2022
How blessed you are in having a minister who is preparing you as he is. Yes, I’ve learned that feeling The Relief as part of the mix of emotions as the transition approaches (and happens) is normal, and is nothing to be ashamed of, Another post with imagery that blew me away.
Wow. What a beautiful post. I agree, death is often merciful. When my Dad died from late-stage Parkinson’s, we were all relieved. He couldn’t move, talk, or feed himself at the end. My mother’s arduous years as caretaker were also over. I believe death is a better place and someday your mother will be free.
I am so, so happy for those who have finished their work and are allowed to go on. My Mom. My Dad. How happy I am for them still.
I forget my own grief in their joy.
Thank you for saying what most don’t say but feel. Yes. Yes.
I know you’ve been doing this work for a long time. I appreciate you.
Oh my goodness….so many emotions in that post. I feel your pain and your oncoming relief. A couple of nights before my brother died, my sister and I were sitting up with him. He had cancer and was not going to get better. We prayed for God to take our brother; to end his suffering, and also to end our suffering. It’s hard watching and waiting for someone you love to leave this earthly plane. We did not feel guilty praying for the Lord to take him. Hugs to you and your family as you struggle through this loss.
So glad your brother (and you and your sister) were able to embrace the relief without guilt. Thanks for your story.
Oh Pennie, it’s so hard for your family to take such a journey. But these deeply felt writings send starlight into the dark night for us all. 🙏💗
Yes, the relief will come and you will rejoice, both for your Mother and for yourself but……it will take time to come to terms with your “new normal!” Just give yourself time to breathe!
Thanks, LeAnne. I will.
Whew. Ouch. Sweet relief. I watch my dad’s journey, unable to read any more, unable to understand what’s in Tv, movies are too jumbled in his brain to enjoy them. He cannot control his bodily functions… there is no quality of life left for him, except in the quiet moments of hand holding with my mom. My prayer… “God, whatever dad’s praying for… do that”. I feel so tapped into your journey. Different parents, different circumstances, same feelings. Blessing to you and all you love Pennie.
We’re all connected, Debbie. I pray for your father’s sweet Relief.
Thank you for describing my feelings I had towards my Dad while he was going through the struggles of dementia from Alzheimer’s. He would occasionally recognize what was happening to him. We wouldn’t say anything, my dad would just semi-smile and acknowledge me. I feel so lucky that I got to be a part of his final days. I helped him, my dad.
There is a bit of beauty in this ugly mess, right? Glad you could be there for your dad.