Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Heaven in this Hell

I was so very nervous the first time I met her. I was the first girl her youngest son had ever brought home. It was the weekend of her oldest daughter's wedding.  There were bridesmaids in and out of the house, several freakouts about popped seams and the wrong foundation shade. Out-of-town family members were randomly stopping by, dropping off presents, and staying for "just a chat."  What was I doing going there?

But as soon as the truck door slammed, she rushed out of the garage.  She hugged her son first, of course, but then she ordered him to take our bags upstairs as she enveloped me in a hug as big as the blue Iowa sky. She thanked me for coming and chattered at me nonstop as we walked into the house where she fed me homemade chili, all the while ignoring everyone and everything else. My mother is great, of course, but she is the mother that every little girl dreams of having. A mother who listens, a mother who stocks the house with your favorites even when you live another state away (just in case you stop by!), a mother who is quick with hugs and words of praise, and a mother who is a caretaker first and foremost.

A week ago I sat around a room with her children and her husband as the palliative care doctor told her that she most likely has weeks to live. I also heard her ask the doctor repeatedly if he needed anything to eat or drink, a welcoming hostess to the very end.

One of the things Dr. BB told me about his mom on the way to meet her for the first time was that she loves her yard and especially the bird feeders she has hanging outside the kitchen window.   We've spent hours watching birds with her. And last week, when it became clear that she was probably never going to go downstairs again, Dr. BB went to the store and bought a pole that he could attach to the deck outside her bedroom window. We put a bird feeder on it and watched as goldfinches and purple finches flew around it, feeding and flitting.  When everyone else went down to eat lunch, I laid on the bed next to her and listened as she told stories about her father building wren houses and he had a drill bit just the right size for the wrens to get in, but to keep the big birds out.  She told me how tired she was and I told it was okay for her to sleep. 

And it is. 

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