Monday, January 10, 2005

A Bead of Glass


This is a purge. I had to get it out of the way. Every time I thought about something interesting that's happened to me recently that I might want to write about, this kept popping it's head up and I couldn't get past it. So here it is. It's about my mother dying so don't read if you aren't in the mood to read about stuff like that.


The television was on in the background. Princess Diana was dead. Who cares.

Earlier that day, the nurse had cornered me, alone, on the front porch. "When she starts to die," she had said in a matter of fact tone, "You'll notice that the breathing will increase, as if the person were exercising. I just want you to know so that you won't be alarmed." She sounded as if she were describing the layout of a v-6 engine. I tried to keep the shocked expression off my face. No one had told me she was going to die.

So I sat there next to my mother, numb. Everything seemed like a bad dream. Somewhere along the way I should have been able to hit "pause" and played this a different way. And now it was too late. It was all happening fast.

"The princess of whales has died tonight in an accident at this tunnel in Paris...."

She hadn't spoken since the morphine drip had started kicking in. I don't think she knew her last words to me were going to be earlier that day, when I put my hand on her cheek and said, "Is there anything I can do for you, mommy?" She creaked back, "Yeah. Loose some weight."

So I sat there next to her at one AM, in her abandoned wheelchair next to the bed, and petted her hand. The world was in shock, and I felt nothing. I wondered vaguely where my father was. It was already tomorrow, August 31st. Labor day weekend. The day summer dies. It might have been hot. Hollow objects don't absorb temperature like things that are solid. I felt nothing.

My father wandered in at some point that morning, smelling like brandy. I took two of the industrial sized vicodin from her bedside table and went to my room. The only sleep I would get would be chemically induced.

Every night for the past year, I had prayed. Please god, please let her get well. I'm too young and I can't do this on my own. Please... And steadily, every couple of weeks, another bout of bad news. Now it was in her spine. Now her leg. Now her liver. Every six weeks, another form of chemo abandoned and a new one trotted out. Something that might work this time, but at the same time knowing the chances and the options were growing slimmer and slimmer.

This night, I prayed she would die. And soon. And that was the last time I ever prayed.

I woke up in the steely dawn feeling like someone had taken a huge weight off my shoulders. This was all a mistake. Everything was fine... Finally, for the first time since I could remember, everything was fine. My mother was there. "It's ok," she said. "I can't explain it, but it's ok."

I wanted answers. How could this happen? More than a year of anxiety, sitting in fetid hospitals, sleeping in empty hostipal beds, and it was... fine?

She took me to a room... a huge room with ceilings stretching even beyond sight. All along the walls were what looked like bolts of fabric stacked as high as imaginable. She pointed to one bolt. "What color is this?" she asked. "Blue" I responded. She pointed to another, "And what color is this?"

"Well... that's also blue. A different shade." I said.

"Could you describe for me every shade of color you see on this wall?" She asked, looking skyward.

"No," I admitted.

"Some things you can't describe with words, I suppose," she said, and smiled.

It took me a moment to realize I had been dreaming. The dream was gone, but the feeling of relief was still there. Of peace. It was a feeling I had maybe had as a small child, that there is nothing wrong in the world and you have every reason to be happy. I remembered reality, but it didn't slap me in the face like it had every other morning for the last year.

I went into my mothers room. My father had either fallen asleep or passed out. It was dawn. She was breathing like she was running a marathon... frantic gasps.

I sat in the empty wheelchair and held her hand. "It's ok," I told her quietly. I didn't want my father to wake up. I wanted it to be only us. "I'll be fine, don't worry. I'll take care of Steven. You don't have to stay... you can go. If you want to, go." I thought about that feeling of peace and happiness that I had only glimpsed, and I couldn't grudge her that. I would have made the same choice.

She made a couple more deep breaths, and she was gone. Still, and quiet.

I sat there holding her hand a few moments more. I closed her mouth. I straightened out her legs, and took a baby wipe from the stash at the bedside table and cleaned her up a bit. I think she would have wanted that. I never let go of her hand.

"Dad," I said finally. He woke with a start. Maybe he had the dream, too. He would never say, if he did. He wasn't the type. "She's gone," I informed him. He didn't react except to look and the clock, then left to call the nurse so she could make arrangements to pick up the body. One of the nurses told me later that she saw him crying in the backyard over the trash cans. I never saw him cry.

I sat with her that morning, waiting for the men with the gurney and strangely opulent velvet bag to come and take her away. Her hand never felt cold to me. I didn't want to leave her alone. When I finally got up out of the wheelchair to let the men take her, rigormortis had set in and her hand stayed extended out even when I let go, like she was reaching out to me.

If you take one second of time, and freeze it, it seems so clear and perfect in that one moment. A spray of water, stopped in an instant like that, turns into a shower of brilliant glass beads... faceted diamonds glimmering against the sun. It looks solid and beautiful to the naked eye. When that second stops, and motion continues, those brilliant stones will falter and fall to the ground, inexorably shattering and disappearing forever in the soft earth.

Life is like that. It's here for an instant. It inevitably falls back to where it came from. Each moment may seem like a diamond for that second, but there is no pause. That bead of water will shatter to the ground and dissipate... back to its home.


At 8:21 AM, Blogger Bloomin' Onionhead said...

OK i'm not quite sure how to comment, other than I know that I must - I'm completely blown away. When reading through hundreds of intellectual musings or funny stories I occasionally come across a gem that is so powerfully honest, emotional, and beautifully written, it sticks with me for a long long time. This is one of those gems.

I'm not a deeply spiritual person, but when reading about those last moments when you were holding your mom's hand, I just felt like she passed something on to you. Something that you have continued to hold onto and never let go of. Thanks for taking that one second of time, and freezing it.

At 9:34 AM, Blogger Ginny said...

Thanks, BOH, coming from you (as perhaps the most telented writer I know) that means a lot to me.

At 11:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ginny, you're such a beautiful writer. I don't know what to say, this text is so powerful. I think I'm going to go outside and live a little. Thank you, Ginny.

At 1:33 PM, Blogger Xica said...

Beautiful post, Ginny. I lost my mom about a year before you lost yours, also from a long illness. Thank you for being brave and writing about it.

At 2:38 PM, Blogger Bitter Betty said...

Ginny darlin, I agree with Bloomin. I'm very sorry you lost your mother, even if you've had time to heal, I know you were robbed of precious time. This was a stunning entry and I too am totally blown away. I'll in awe for the rest of the day.

At 2:40 PM, Blogger Dr Rocks said...

That was....beautiful. Sad and beautiful.

At 5:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sniffEveryone else said what I wanted to say, which is why I'm so upset.

Seriously I cried this morning because of this. Thank you for sharing.

At 5:24 PM, Blogger No_Newz said...

I had to finish crying before I could comment. BOH summed it up the best. I say ditto.
Lois Lane

At 5:32 PM, Blogger Ginny said...

Wow, thanks for all the comments everybody. Back to lighter stuff in the next few days, I promise. Mostly because the stuff that happens to me if more funny than sad.

At 2:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ginny, I'm so sorry for your loss but I'm thankful for your peace that you had. Thank you for sharing.
I'll be sad the rest of the day, but that's ok. I knew it was going to be said, did it to myself.

At 10:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ginny, that was beautiful, and so very sad. I am all teary here at work now. Nice work.

Truly Scrumptious

At 1:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great information on your site folks. I also am working on a lampwork glass bead site. I'll bookmark yours if you bookmark mine. You can find it at lampwork glass bead.
Again, nice site folks...I'll be baak...:)


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