Getting to Know You forum: A Special Article

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ImageWindigo
May 13, 2010 7:34 AM CST
Name: Deb
This article was published in the Chicago Tribune last weekend. I have read and re read it several times. It really touched me, and I hope that you all find it special, too.

Given the chance, I read to my mother
May 09, 2010|By Mary Schmich

Every night at bedtime for the past couple of weeks, I've read a poem to my mother.

I sit next to the old sofa she prefers to her new, metal hospital-style bed and I leaf through her copy of "Good Poems," edited by Garrison Keillor. It's a fat hardback with a blue jacket, and I muse over the titles she has starred, the stanzas she has bracketed, the pages she has bookmarked with toilet paper.

Here, I said a few nights ago, talking over the wheeze of the oxygen machine, here's a passage you marked in "What I Learned From My Mother," by Julia Kasdorf.

I learned that whatever we say means nothing,

what anyone will remember is that we came.

"Oh, that's nice," she said, and pretty soon she was asleep, coaxed by the drug that eases the anxiety that's caused by the drug that helps her breathe.

My mother and I started this bedtime routine after she went into the hospital with pneumonia two weeks ago, then came home on hospice care, permanently unable to walk.

After several years of decline and rebound and decline again — if you have an elderly parent, you know the cycle — she has been given a loose official deadline. Three to six months. Two weeks if she gets another respiratory infection.

Whatever the count, the goal now is not recovery, but comfort until the end.

And so the ritual of the poems.

One night, noting that she'd written "COPY" next to the title, I read "Perfection Wasted," by John Updike.

And another regrettable thing about death

is the ceasing of your own brand of magic,

which took a whole life to develop and market —

She smiled, and drifted off.

She sleeps for a couple of hours each night, then wakes up and rings a little bell to say she needs to be lifted to the portable commode or wants a sip of juice or has to have a light turned on.

She needs a lamp, she says, with a flutter of panic, because she wants to see the clock. It's as if she senses she can hold on to life as long as she has light and the time.

"Here's one by Mary Oliver," I said one evening, holding up the page where she'd written a big "Yes!"

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —

When the poem was done, I asked what she was thinking.

"What a wonderful world I have lived in."

I have friends whose mothers died young and others whose mothers died suddenly but many more whose mothers leave this way, fading and flaring through old age, like the last shred of wick.

This process, difficult and bountiful, may be the greatest common bond of my generation.

One day last week, the hospice nurse, who drops by routinely, reached for her ringing cell phone.

"I have to take this," she said. It was her mother's nurse, calling from Florida.

I think about all those other fading mothers while I read poems to mine at night. I think about what little rituals their children seek to make the last days feel kind, the conclusion close to right, the relationship close to complete.

And yet all that really matters is that, given the chance, you came.
ImageElena
May 13, 2010 10:15 AM CST
Name: Elena
Middle Tennessee
That is so beautiful, Deb. Many thanks for placing it here for others to read.

My experience was not just like that but I know that yours was similar with your precious mother. Doris was such a special person and all of us who knew her loved her dearly. I can just picture her in heaven smiling down on us gardeners and enjoying our gardens just like we do. I think that she will be singing those good old Christian songs up there too. Can't wait to sing with her again one day in the not too distant future.

My mother died at age 52 because of breast cancer. Thankfully she was never totally bed ridden although she did suffer tremendously during the year she lived after her cancer surgery. I wish she could have lived to be old like her mother who died at age 92 in a nursing home with no memory whatsoever for a long, long time. Somehow, knowing my mother, she would have probably preferred her early death in comparison to the lingering existence that her mother lived through. Who knows? I will ask her that when I see her again in heaven. Knowing my tough little grandma, she will probably tell me that her life and death was what she would have wanted also since she didn't suffer through any mental and very little physical agony. She fell, broke a hip and two days later she was gone. Never regained conciousness after the fall. That was such a blessing.

Thank you again for placing the article here in this cubit.

Elena
ImageCajuninKy
May 19, 2010 6:25 AM CST
Name: Cheryl
Eastern Ky
Truth should be everpresent.
My Mom will be 80 this year. Her health is mostly good. Still works every day. I try to talk to her every day. I will be flying down to La in August for her 80th birthday party. She has a twin brother and it will be a big shindig! Looking forward to it.
Please join me at my Websites:
At Home Away from Home ~ Cajun's Corner

ImageWindigo
May 19, 2010 8:11 AM CST
Name: Deb
Wow! That sounds wonderful!!
ImageElena
May 19, 2010 8:24 AM CST
Name: Elena
Middle Tennessee
The birthday party sounds great. I know you will have a wonderful time. My hubby is just two years younger than your mom. He will be 79 in September. My sister will be 79 in November. He was also in Louisiana during his growing up years, born there and lived there until he was 21. My sis was there for 8 years, 4 years in Ouachita High School and 4 at Northeast Louisiana State. I was also there from the 4th grade through High School. Ouachita during the first three and the brand new high school in West Monroe for my senior year. I was one of the original W. Monroe Rebels.
[Last edited Aug 8, 2011 6:14 AM CST]
Quote | Post #225738 (5)
ImageCajuninKy
Mar 24, 2014 9:23 AM CST
Name: Cheryl
Eastern Ky
Truth should be everpresent.
Turns out I was not able to go to my Momma's party. I hate I missed it. I sent a letter for them to read to her during the party and my cousin sent a disc with the pics and a video. They are precious to me now since my Momma passed. She was eighty two and died from a brain tumor. I miss her so very much.

Duck Dynasty is in West Monroe, La. Do you watch it to see if you spot anything familiar?
Please join me at my Websites:
At Home Away from Home ~ Cajun's Corner

ImageElena
Mar 24, 2014 9:29 AM CST
Name: Elena
Middle Tennessee
Yes, I watch Duck Dynasty. I haven't been back for 9 years so things are different since even that time. I might even see people I knew but probably wouldn't recognize anyone after so many years not seeing them. Only the names would be familiar and they don't give folks names on there. I do enjoy the show however. I would love to trim a few of those scraggly beards however. Sticking tongue out
ImageCajuninKy
Mar 24, 2014 12:48 PM CST
Name: Cheryl
Eastern Ky
Truth should be everpresent.
Rolling on the floor laughing
Please join me at my Websites:
At Home Away from Home ~ Cajun's Corner

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