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.