My mom’s last and best gift to me.
My mother battled alcoholism most of her adult life, which happened to coincided with my childhood. I loved her very much. I spent years trying to protect, and comfort her, but I never felt the same kind of giving in return.
I understand today that if she was a bit cold and vacant, it was more likely the alcoholism than her. But it did leave this “wanting” in my soul. But life goes on. I grew up and away from her as she fought her battles with this addiction.
Years later, when I was about 30 or so my mom finally got a grip on her addiction and she was in full recovery. I believe she had been dry for a year or so when she received the terrible news that she had terminal cancer. Well, it just didnt seem fair at all to me I was just reconnecting with her, just getting to know my mom for the first time in my life really, and now cancer was going to take her from me.
I didnt deal well with the news, but I was doing far better than my brother and sister who still believed that mom was going to one day walk out of the hospice center that we had admitted her into. The hour and a half drive to see her had seemed like 20 minutes just weeks before while I was making an effort to reconnect with her, now it seemed like a 4 hour drive. Im sad to say that as her cancer progressed and my emotions shut down I made the trip less and less often.
Finally one beautiful sunny day, my principal sent for me to come to the office in the middle of one of my classes. I knew immediately what this was about, I had an instant moment of clear knowing, and I felt her going. He very carefully broke the news to me, and then told me to go home so I could get to her before she was gone. The hospice had called and said she could go at anytime today, and wont make it through the night. I had a very strange calm come over me and I could feel my mom saying to me Ill wait. I told him No, Ill wait till lunch then Ill go. He tried twice more to get me to go right away, but seeing I was determined to stay till lunch he gave in and let me teach my next two classes.
When I finally got on the road to go say goodbye to her, the trip felt like 20 minutes once again, and I felt so sad for not having made it more often the past month or so. But I did not feel rushed at all. No hurry, no worry.
When I made it to the hospice, she had gone into a moment of calm so except for my brother the family had gone down to the family room to take a break. I asked if I could see her right away and the nurse said Yes, shes been calling your name. Shes been waiting for you, before she goes.
When I went into the room my brother Rob was asleep in the chair, Im sure from exhaustion. My mom was unconscious. She looked so frail and old; years older than the last time I had seen her only a month before. The cancer had ravaged her small body and I knew it was time for her to go.
My brother awoke and we talked a little, and he confided in me that he didnt know if he wanted to be with her at the end. He didnt know if he could. I started talking to my mom, telling her how very much I loved her and apologizing for not being with her more often lately. She was unconscious but I knew she was listening.
After a few minutes of silence, I noticed that Rob had passed out again. I leaned over moms bed and began to assure her that we were all here, and that we would all be alright if she went, that it was her time to move on and wed see her soon. Almost immediately her breathing pattern changed and there was this rasp to her breathing, almost a gasp. I called the nurse in, which woke Rob up. The nurse told us that this change of breathing was a sign that the end was very near. Then she winked at me and said See, I told you she was waiting.
Rob ran down to get the rest of my family. I had been holding her hand and as soon as Rob and the nurse left the room my mom opened her eyes, squeezed my hand, and I swear I saw a smile. Then she took a long deep breath, and she was gone. I gently put her limp hand down on the bed, stood and kissed her forehead. At that moment, the family walked in. I turned and told them she was gone.
After all arrangements were made, and papers were signed, we decided we should go out to dinner as a family to honor her passing. While at dinner the subject of the hospice came up, and the wonderful nurses and doctors who had informed and supported us all these last few months. My sister Kim suggested we should present something in Moms name to the hospice to remember her. It was suggested that mom would Love us to give one of my paintings to the hospice center. I eagerly agreed and asked what the painting should be. No one had any ideas and as a group they decided to leave it up to me. I was anxious about this because I too had no ideas at all.
I returned to St. Louis, and took a couple of days to think about a subject to honor my mom. But, I was getting nowhere. Then one day while grocery shopping I was walking down the paper product aisle to get to another part of the store. Suddenly I felt moved to stop. I say moved because it was NOT my decision to stop, it was as if an invisible force had dropped down and I had to stop. Feeling very strange and not knowing what to do at this point, I turned my head to the left and my vision instantly focused on a particular Kleenex box on the 3rd shelf. It was a small cube box of tissue, with a beautiful Blue Iris on the side. In an instant I knew that this should be the subject for the painting. I didnt know why it should, just that it should.
So I picked it up and put it in my cart and went on with my shopping, thinking about how it seemed as if I had been told to use this box as the subject. The thought came to me that maybe my mom had been behind this, but I dismissed it as soon as I thought of it. As I was approaching the checkout line I realized that Id left my wallet at home. I reached in my pocket and pulled out a ten, two fives, and a few coins. I had $20.37 exactly. Looking down at my cart I didnt think I would get under that amount but decided not to worry about it and see. At the register, the clerk informed me that 3 of my items were on sale including the Blue Iris box of Kleenex. The total was exactly $20.37! I couldnt help think it was my mom winking at me.
A few weeks later when the Painting was finished, and framed I called my sister to tell her about it. She asked What did you come up with? I replied Its a painting of Blue irises Kim shrieked Thats perfect! Why didnt we think of that? Well, I was very confused because it still wasnt obvious at all to me why Blue Iriss were a good subject. I didnt even know why I had picked them. I laughed at her and said oh yeah? Why do you think theyre so perfect? Her answer was at once shocking, and yet it made perfect sense. She said you know the hospice just changed their logo to two blue irises! I had no idea that this was the case, since I had been absent the last month of moms life.
I believe with all my heart and soul, that my mom that day gave me the one true and lasting gift of a lifetime. She reached through the veil, tapped my shoulder, and said Hey! Im still here.