Run, Mamma, Run!


If there is anything harder than what we went through today, I’m simply not interested.

As difficult as it was to orchestrate, I was adamant that Mother was going to be able to die at home. If I put my entire life on hold to afford that for my father as I did a year and a half ago– given our often-continuous relationship, I definitely could afford that for this woman who was the center of my universe.

I brought in fresh flowers and, with the help of Ina and Aunt Gail, got the house spic-and-span. I washed all her bedding and put electric candles in there so they could stay even with the oxygen-pumping machine. I did everything I could to insure that the whole experience was serene and beautiful and my mother would be able to slip serenely into the next life.

Silly me. If life should have taught me anything in the past little while it’s that– go ahead and make your plans, and then plan for it to go absolutely the opposite way– at least half the time.

When all the extraneous life-sustaining measures were removed, as expected she began to slip away– but like the true Steel Magnolia she was, she fought it every step of the way. She “raged against the dying of the light” for a solid hour before it was finally over and I will never, ever be the same.

I don’t plan to tell the whole story because it is private and personal to my family. Also, quite frankly, because as best I can I want to forget it as much as possible. Do I regret our decision to allow her make her transition at home instead of in a cold, sterile hospital? Absolutely not. Do I think that she ever, at any point, regretted her decision to leave that sick body and this life for a better one? No I don’t. Would I have done it if I’d known how horrible it was going to be? Yes. But only for her. Only because I love her so much. Only because she was not going to get any better and she was ready to reunite with our loved ones who’ve gone on before. And I thank God I don’t have any more parents to bury. I know how horrible that sounds– but I am empty. I am depleted. I have no more to give right now. I’m glad I could give my parents the gift of my love and support over the past year and a half. They sacrificed so much for me after all. Now I have to take some time for me to heal. The next couple of months are going to be about me getting my hands in Mother Earth and communing with the soil; I’m going to plant a small garden. I plan to camp and swim and spend a lot of quiet time alone. I’ll go to a Sun Dance in the Black Hills and then on a Vision Quest in Vermont. I’m going to be spending a lot of time in prayer to ask for guidance about what’s next for me.

I will share one detail of the three hours Mother spent at home before she died: She always told people the first person she wanted to see when she got to heaven was her mother. At some point very near the end, when she finally seemed to be letting go of this shore and reaching toward the next, she looked past me and over my shoulder– through the ceiling and said, “Mamma!” Soaked in sweat and so pleadingly praying for her suffering to be over, I shouted, “Yes! She’s there! Walk towards her!” “No run!” my brother Chad said, “run like a little girl!”

And tonight, for the first time in a very long time, my mother can do that! She can run like a little girl. Run, Mamma, run!

See y’all tomorrow.

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