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.