Thursday, April 14, 2011


ONE NEVER KNOWS, DEAR READER, what a day will bring. One can never know for certain.
Sometimes the arrival of a loved one, a miracle of new life. And sometimes...

The Yard Man and I were expecting the Little Actor to come to our house for a few hours today. And it was a lovely day for us to be outside; after days of rain, we finally had sun! But as soon as the little guy arrived, I said to my yard man, "We must go and see your mother! We don't know how much time we have."

"Well," said The Yard Man," This little grandson of mine needs to go and visit the chickens and the horses, see the two baby foals in the barn. Then we can go."

"Please don't take long," I implored. "We really should go now."

Dear Reader, this mother-in-law of mine had been suffering pain since the not-so-happy birthday, since the eighty-ninth party that was quietly postponed. She was getting lots of medication to make her comfortable, but she didn't appear to be coming back to a place where we could sing happy birthday and she could eat cake. In fact, it seemed she might never eat much of anything else again. Hospice was called in. Everyone could see that she didn't have much longer to call this earth home. Various of her children were spending long periods of time at her side. But I myself had not seen this dear woman since the day of her birthday.

So The Yard Man put the Little Actor in the car, and the three of us took a forty-five minute trip through the bright morning countryside to the nursing home. Riding in the back seat beside the Little Actor, I was treated to a commentary of the signs of life he spotted along the way--several times we saw moo, moo; once we saw neigh. Stopped at a red light, we even saw a little bird hopping about in a bush.

And then we arrived at the nursing home. The Yard Man hoisted his mother's great-grandson out of his car seat and carried him in to her room to see her, where she lay in her bed beneath a bright pink blanket. As we entered, the five family members who were there, conversing, turned to greet us. "I saw you coming," said one of the yard man's sisters. "Mom opened her eyes when I told her you were here!"

Ah, but Dear Reader. Mom's eyes were no longer focused. And her breathing was ragged. When I put my hand on her cheek it was feverishly warm. The Little Actor gazed at his great-grandmother, her still form and unseeing eyes, her rasping breath. He was quiet, watching intently as the yard man and I spoke to her.

Who's to know--perhaps he had an understanding of what was to come, and when. It was hardly more than five minutes after our arrival that someone standing near my mother-in-law's bed said, "Oh, I think this might be it...I believe she's stopped breathing." Everyone gathered around and waited quietly. But she gasped for more life, and she was still with us.

Only for a few moments longer. Twice more there was no respiration. Only once more her breathing resumed.
Again, we waited quietly, not knowing for sure.
A nurse was called, and faintly...
oh, so faintly, her heart was
still dancing.
So, again, we watched and waited.
Gave our dear loved one another

She did not breathe again.

She was gone from us. Gone over. Gone beyond.
Gone to worlds unknown. She had gathered up her spirit and departed.

We hovered around her, touched her and spoke to her, as the warmth of a connection lingered on. "Say bye-bye," we instructed the Little Actor.

"Ba-bye," he said, and he waved his endearing farewell.
He seemed to understand that her spirit had flown.

For the next two hours he played happily by her bed as his elders waited for the undertaker to come and carry the body of his great-grandmother away.

Yes, sometimes a day brings the miraculous arrival of a loved one. And, then sometimes, it brings departure.

At the end of a very long life, with three generations of one's descendants represented around the deathbed, this has a touch of the miraculous, as well.


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