It is Sunday afternoon. Mama’s bird is singing in the sun room. I collapsed on my chair, the exhaustion of the week caught up with me and I slept a restless sleep. The music that is playing quietly is Classical Lullabies by Fisher Price, and Certain Man is kicked back in his lazy-boy, sleeping soundly. He came down with a bad cold and sore throat and needs the sleep even more than I do. Lena is quietly here, doing something on her computer. Middle Daughter is sleeping, getting ready for an evening shift with Delaware Hospice. Youngest Daughter is in Chicago, believe it or not, spending time learning to know one of her daddy’s cousin and his family, Dan and Heather Yutzy and their precocious five year old, Kiran. Rachel actually went to Chicago for the bachelorette party for her friend, Anna, whose wedding is coming up in a few weeks, but it has been a grand week for God happenings, and this Mama gives grateful praise.
I am just ready to head out to Country Rest Home. My brother, Nel and his wife, Rose, arrived yesterday and have been helping to fill in the gaps. Mama’s sister, Alma Jean Yoder, from Harrisonburg, Virginia, caught a ride to Delaware last evening, and her helping hands have already filled in some gaps for us. It is pretty much the same there for our Sweet Mama. Sometimes it feels like these days just run together with almost no variation except decline.
Early in this journey, one Sunday morning, while I sat by her bed in the hospital, she reached for my hand and spoke life giving words of love to me that I’ve needed for some time. I always have known that my Mama loved me, but this last year has been hard for her and us all, and there were many times when it felt like the filters were gone and things were said that would set me back on my heels. Sometimes when it was time to travel the miles to her house, I would ask the Father for the garment of praise and for wisdom to understand what it was that was best for my Mama, for I knew that she always could tell when something was bothering me and she hated it terribly when she thought I was sad.
“Mary Ann,” she would sometimes say with her eyes all pleading, “Have I been a good girl?” Often this was after one of her more strident declarations, or actions that were out of character for her. How I hated that question that put me fully in the place of being the parent, while my heart still begged to be her child. I didn’t want to be the one to tell her that she needed to stop driving. I didn’t want to be the one to tell her that she needed a wheelchair or a walker. I didn’t want to be the one to tell her that her days of self medicating were over.
“Everytime you come,” she said earlier this year, “you take something else away from me!!!” And she burst into tears. Mama almost never cried, and it wrenched my heart as I struggled to know the difference between what was okay, what was negligence and what risks were acceptable. I almost never laid down the law (we don’t do that with our Mama) but tried to negotiate what she was willing to live with and what she wasn’t.
And now she is suffering so much. She moves so restlessly on the bed that has been her “home” in these last ten days, no longer asking to go home, not asking me to take her home with me. She hasn’t spoken my name since Wednesday, and that is okay. I don’t ask her because I don’t want her to have to think that hard. I remember her words of love and I am comforted. How I wish I could fix this for her. I wish I could transform her into the healthy, young vibrant Mama of my youth, bring back the good, good times, the dancing eyes, the music, the love of beauty and the strong body. These are the memories that we have of this brave, indomitable woman who is our mama.
But even if I couldn’t bring back the body the way it once was, today I’d give almost anything just to have her be the Mama.