The Year, The Month, The Week
It all began last year about this time. Mama had already been in the hospital in Iuka for several days and was released to go home. She didn't improve and Marsha called me that the situation was getting very serious. Clutching the phone, I tried by long-distance to tell my brothers what to do, what to see about, how was Mama? It was heart-wrenching, not knowing how things really were. It was heart-wrenching to know Mike and Steve were doing all they could but as with Sher and me later, there was never a good way to know what to do. So Sher went to Mama's, then I was on my way shortly afterward, and then the emergency wheels began to turn ever more rapidly and soon we were in Tupelo at North Mississippi Medical Center living literally one minute to the next. I think I came home one time and then returned for what I thought would be my turn at the hospital. But the last time I left Wynne on my way back to Mama, I told Paul I had no idea when I would be back. At that point there was no time for planning, for worrying about my job, our bills, anything else but helping Mama. I'd be there as long as I had to be.
Next month, September 1, will be one year. It doesn't seem possible. Even now I think of things that happened that I have not thought of in all that time. I don't know what I'd have done without my sister and brothers. I had an extra measure of God's grace and God-given strength I don't usually have. I pushed myself - we all did. Sher and I developed a closer sister-bond than we've ever had before. I drew closer to my brothers. Mama told us to take care of Steve, the youngest. Mama's always want their children to be okay, and she and Steve were especially close. And we learned so many things we did not know before. About our strong little mother, about her walk with God, her prayers, about the past, about living, about dying, and about God's abundant grace.
Bren has invited me and Sher to her house for a long overdue "girls' weekend" which we've talked about for years. I have not spent the night at her house since we graduated high school and that's been 42 years ago (my goodness!), I guess, but we are as close as if we lived next door to each other thanks to email, telehone calls, and visits when we've been in Iuka. September 11 and 12 is the planned long weekend, with Sher coming up on the Friday evening. Bren, Charlotte and I will have two days to visit, catch up and enjoy being together. (September 11 is the infamous 9/11 anniversary, and it wasn't planned that way - it just happened to be a long weekend we could all manage at the same time.) It will be a healing time, a remembering time. We will visit the cemetery, because that is part of life - remembering and honoring our loved ones.
I thought of Mama this morning as I listened to the radio. Some song reminded me of how our bodies are returned to earth at the ends of our lives. She used to joke and say she would just go out like the old Indian tradition and sit under a tree and die. It wasn't as sweet or easy as that, but we got her in a wonderful hospice for the last few hours of her life and those good people at Sanctuary Hospice House were there to help us let go, to let her go, without all the tubes, bags, beeps, respiratory therapies, tests that by then were just not needed. The NMMC nursing staff is wonderful. They are trained to heal and by August 30 we knew Mama would not be healed on this earth and we wanted the last days or hours of her life to be serene. SHH staff still remembers us with newsletters and notices about memorials services.
Mama had a room with a window: there were trees, a fountain, a bird feeder and flowers visible outside. She never knew her surroundings, but we tried to make it very comfortable for her, and it meant so much to us to be able to all be together as a family, just supporting her with our presence. It was peaceful, quiet, enveloping us all in that special grace I had always heard about, but I saw it surrounding her - that dying grace that God gives. Mama's brick is probably installed in the Memory Walk and I haven't seen it. Sometime I want Sher and I and the boys, if they want to, to go together. It would be a nice drive on the Trace to Tupelo, a slow reflective drive. But there is only so much you can do in even a long weekend, and I want to see Paul's family when I'm there. Mama Nick will be 90 in October. There are brothers to see. There is living to do.
Thank you, Mama, for taking care of us, your kids you were so proud of - your greatest joy in life. Thank you for showing us how to live and love.