Remembering Whole

In the quiet moments before dawn, I remembered.  Two years ago on the 25th day of August, I was driving to meet my parents in the hospital lobby “by the grand piano” at 6:00 a.m.  Thoughts of Mom and memories of the day’s events flooded back.  Surprisingly, I can’t recall if my husband went with me that morning or if he came later in the day.  I don’t remember if there was any traffic either, but I remember exactly where I parked.

I can still see her standing with Dad as I crossed the lobby to greet her.  She looked so small and pale.  Trying to appear serene, I felt her trembling when I hugged her.  We were all there that day, humbled by its importance, burdened with the weight of what was happening.
I can remember her sitting up in bed in the tiny pre-surgery room; each of us taking turns to spend what we knew might be our last moments with her.  I wanted to call a halt to everything, turn back the clock and lead a daring escape from what lie ahead. But I only let Mom see my calm and efficient…the dance to which I know all the steps.
As they came to take her to the room where her heart would be removed for repair and a bypass machine would pump life through her body, I reluctantly walked away leaving my Dad to say his goodbyes…
Between reports from the young nurse assigned to keep us updated, we talked, read, snacked and wrestled silently with our own fears.  Several of us decided to take a walk and were strolling the hallway when my brother stopped in his tracks. 
He told us in a hushed tone that he had just felt Mom’s spirit pass through him.  She had left her body…free from its betrayal for a few hours.
We didn’t realize that even though Mom would survive the surgery, so much of who she was would be lost that day, never to return.  She would not rally or recover.  Our hope, encouragement, love and tender care was not enough.  She didn’t see the six-month anniversary of her heart’s last chance.
Perhaps once she discovered what was beyond the tethers of mortality, she understood how easily she could leave her body.  I believe she fought for us, but knew from that day that she was going to die.
There will probably be years when I won’t remember all the details and feelings of that day.  They will be buried beneath the days that have followed, overshadowed by life’s rhythm and the passing of time.
But lying in the darkness before the dawn, I felt the warmth of those waning moments wash over me…the last time when she was still really with us.  For a few seconds our little family was WHOLE again. 
I will hold on to the memory for as long as I can.

What Dreams May Come

She was in my dreams last night….the woman I have until now, been unable to remember.  Haunted by sadness and regret, grief has only allowed me to remember the stooped, frail woman at the end of her life..the un-invincible Mother who slipped away even as we fought so hard to keep her with us.
My dreams since her death have been filled with re-enactments of various stages in her decline. In them she is sick or just a shadow of herself .  When I wake up, the questions linger…ones with no good answers.  What could we have done differently?  Why didn’t we do something sooner? Did we do enough? Why didn’t she tell someone what was happening to her? The list goes on…
But in my latest dream, she was the woman BEFORE… beautiful, vital and so very alive. She looked to be a few years older than I am now…in her late 50’s, maybe early 60’s. 
In the dream, everyone was together.  It felt like a family gathering, and Mom was larger than life…she was radiant, happy and engaged in all the goings on.  I was surprised when I saw Dad with more hair and looking younger as well.  
I found myself standing outside alone with him and I put my hands on his shoulders and said, ” Dad, now you can tell her!” ” Tell her what?” he asked.  ” All the things you didn’t get to say.” He nodded.
” What will you tell her?” he asked. “I just want to thank her for being my mother….”
Suddenly, I was somewhere else;  away from them both.  I was trying to find a suitcase (?) so I could “get ready”.  I wanted to get back to them; to her, and the urgency I was feeling made everything move slower.  I couldn’t find the clothes I had planned to wear, I needed to shower, but was unsure where that was.  My make-up was missing, and I was bogged down in the slow molasses of dreamtime. 
Then, someone put their hand on my shoulder and said, “It’s too late.  You can’t go back now.  They only look like that in the light, and it is dark outside.”  I woke up.
Was it her message to me?  I’m not sure.  I do know that the feelings I experienced in the dream have inspired me to find a new way to remember my mother.  

I know she would not want me to only think of her as she was near the end.  She would rejoice in my memories of her laughter, her smile at the front door, and her melodic, low voice speaking my name over the phone…”Angie, it’s Mom” she would say.  

It is time to venture beyond the darkness.. I want to remember again how she looked in the light.