Monday, April 25, 2016

Gentle Waves

Eileen has a gift for seeing the absurd, something she's shared with all of her children. The hilarity from the bedside yesterday was belly laughs, leading to tears-in-laughter; the kind of absolute glee that swells the heart and catches the breath. Tonight we laughed again about the words she mixed up a couple of days ago, and our ruckus may have annoyed her roommate. She had a good day today, her potent steroid is alleviating most pain and giving her an appetite. She ate three meals today and dessert, and was able to get out of bed to do it. She is not yet exhausted from radiation, which I am told won't save her life, but it will make these last weeks more comfortable for her.

The words tumble from her mouth as though all the things she never said want to come out. Feelings and opinions that I didn't know she'd had and experiences I didn't know she'd lived came out tonight in between bites of hospital turkey and mashed potatoes. I may regret not recording it all, but the idea of recording somehow violates the sanctity of what she is saying.

I saw my friend Molly at the grocery store today when I went in to get bologna and cheese and debit some cash for the Thruway toll. "How's it going?" she asked. My response was genuinely chipper. "Mom's transitioning to hospice." "Oh, I'm so sorry, I had no idea that was happening." I gave a few details and told her how glad I was to see her and as we walked out of the store I teased her about not remembering where she was parked.

I don't go to that store normally but it was the one Mom always went to when she still lived in Utica. I was thinking about her the whole time I was shopping. Before I had a chance to get morbid about her not being able to ever come back for the seafood stuffed chicken she used to buy, my friend was there, totally unaware that she was helping me.

I imagined her driving away saying to herself, "Her mother is going into hospice. Why is she even smiling? That's absolutely bonkers nuts." (Molly is smarter and more sensitive than this, but the thought crossed my mind.) Right-- why am I smiling? I'm smiling because we are surrounded in and carried by grace and unlike some families, we are given the gift of saying good-bye. I'm smiling because Mom is still here, and because I can give her the gift of non-fright as she prepares to see God.

Jon and I said goodnight to her Saturday, and at the elevator he put his arm around me. "I'm so grateful for you. Your sense of calm is stunning." That's the practice. It is coming back to the extreme present and noticing what is here. The floor I stand on, the air in my lungs, the sounds around me, it is what is here.

I have had moments of sadness, when my throat closes up and tears leak out. I touch the sensations fully and breathe through them, allowing them to be as they are. These are gentle waves of love, not drowning waves of grief.