Wednesday, October 20, 2010
The air smelled warm and chemically sweet in the nursing home. I pressed “two” as the elevator slowly rose to the second floor. The door opened, and I walked across the dining area looking for Mom. She wasn’t there. The other patients were slowly eating though many had their heads drooped over as if they were asleep. Hardly anyone talked. The lights on the Christmas wreath on the far wall twinkled in the somnolent dreamscape.
The door was open to her room, but the curtains were drawn around the bed. Could she have died? The hall was so quiet, maybe no one had noticed. Pulling the curtain open I saw that her eyes were closed, her jaw was open and breathing weak. I sat down next to her, took her hand in mine, and began to pray to God to release this Soul, if this was for the highest good of all.
“Isabelle?” She stirred and opened her eyes. “It’s you?” I could hear how hard it was for her to talk.
“Yes, Mom, it’s me.”
Her lips pursed, as if to say more, but we were interrupted by a nurse checking her vital signs. I was asked to wait outside.
I walked back towards the dining room and collapsed into a chair. Staring blankly across the room at a simple crèche of Mary and Jesus in the stable I saw the naïve tackiness of the plastic figures. But it didn’t strike me as naïve or cheap this time; instead I remembered how Mom had put real straw in the manger of her plastic crèche, and I remembered the time she devoted each year to setting up the Christmas village under the tree. We both loved the miniature scene that transported one back to a simpler time and place. There was always snow, the girl always had an ice mirror to skate on, and the warm lights of the church were welcoming.
Simple grace. I thought of the simple grace and perfect faith I had felt on the day of my first communion. Dressed in white, like the little bride of Jesus, I wondered if I would feel a tingling as the body of Jesus, in the form of a simple wafer, was placed in my mouth. As I grew older I lost the peace that came with such simplicity and embodied faith, but in its place came a trust in the cycles and the process of life, leading again, to a vaguer but still simple “goodness/Godness”. Astrology had given me that, yet what would happen if all the astrological signs were present for this great transition, and nothing happened? Would I lose my faith in astrology? Would I lose faith in synchronicity and the mysterious correspondence that existed between the chart and life events? Would I even lose faith in this Goodness, this God?
I was too tired to think anymore. Seems as if I’m forever attempting to read the mind of God. And God’s mind is ultimately unknowable, yet ‘learning lessons of compassion’ would sometimes feel like an excusable reason when life felt unfair and the transits were hard. But now, all I could do was to let my head fall on the table in front of me like some of the other residents of the home. My energy was spent….this must be what it’s like to die here, I mused.
And for the first time, tears began to flow into my lap. They came in a flow of gentle drops….till I felt cleansed and empty. I must have fallen into a light sleep, as I seemed to drift back to my sanctuary room, and staring at the astrology charts I imagined the signs had changed once more….but, like in a bad dream when you’re called upon to know something you don’t know, I felt ashamed. Here I was, unable to read what was the charts. I couldn’t remember if it was an ending or a beginning, or whose it was.
I awoke by the soft touch of a nurse’s hand on my shoulder. “You can go in now, dear.”
I sat down next to the bed again, and took her cool hand in mine. Her eyes opened again and she whispered: “I love you…..”
I waited for the rest of the sentence. But there wasn’t any more. I was shocked. “I love you too, Mom.” Then she closed her eyes as if to close our session, and I walked away. When I got to the elevator I panicked, and ran down the steps instead. This was one of the very few times she had ever said “I love you” when it wasn’t followed by a “but…” I had been graced.
Early the next morning she died. Jupiter was quickly approaching my Sun, and my grief began lifting like the morning mist, being ‘over-lightened’ by this mutual act of simple grace.