Wednesday, October 14, 2009

More steps on the journey

The thing that consumes me these days is the brutal fact that my mother is dying.

Back in the 1970s a book was written entitled “First, You Cry.” It was the memoir of a TV news journalist who had breast cancer, and I always thought the title was one of the best I’ve ever come across because it is so accurate and succinct. A diagnosis of cancer pretty much engenders the same response, whether it is your own life or that of a loved one: first, you cry.

When my mother told me last spring that the cancer had returned and was terminal, I cried. Since then, her spirits have been good for the most part, and she has, unknowingly, often carried me with her own good spirits.

Lately, though, I am finding myself tearing up at odd times.

Like the other day. While driving my car down the Interstate, I was mentally walking through my mother’s house, viewing once again the things quietly arranged (and meticulously dusted) on shelves, bureaus, dressers, etc. I saw again in my mind’s eye the grouping of mementos that has been on the bureau in her bedroom for years and years. Among that group is a small ceramic model of an open Bible, and I fell to pieces thinking about it.

I made that piece for her when I was in the 6th or 7th grade in Sunday School. The ceramic model was already cast when we started the project; we got to paint it and then put a decal on the front – the 23rd Psalm, as I recall. Being 1969 or so, we dutifully painted the outside “cover” black and the edges of the “pages” red, just as our own Bibles looked.

It’s not done very well – I had lousy eye-hand coordination and didn’t paint it very neatly, although I tried my hardest at the time. But my mother has always kept that piece on display. For some 40 years, it has been somewhere where she could see it. I never have asked her why. Perhaps I should.

The latest with my mother’s health is that she is retaining a lot of fluid in her abdomen, legs and feet. Still not much in the way of pain – just occasionally. The anemia and the fluid retention are pretty bad, though, and she sounds tired and a little depressed when I talk to her on the phone. Hospice is coming twice a week.

- Catherine


Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

I know that things like the ceramic piece connect us to people we love. It kind of makes a circle. She loves it because, in addition to the wonderful psalm, it connects her to you. It will always, because she loves it and you, connect you to her.

Prayers continue!

Catherine said...

My mother is not sentimental at all. I guess that's why it surprises me that this piece -- so obviously the work of an non-artistic child -- has been on display for every day of the last 40 years.

Susan said...

Wow. That's a powerful post. Praying for you. And yes, you should ask her.