Yesterday, my Mother turned 92 years of age. It was in the middle of my six day trip to come and care for details regarding her continuing care in a skilled nursing facility. I arrived angry with the inefficiency of an impersonal medical care machine that often seems to be better at “mass processing” elder care rather than engaging in anything that even remotely resembles real care for elderly people in need of care. I came to be my Mom’s advocate, her guardian, her protector, her enforcer, her muscle. With the support of two brothers and some allies on the ground here I crusaded and campaigned on her behalf with the overseers at the facility where she currently resides. By their public responses to me, but mostly by their private ones, I have reason to believe that my trip was not in vain. I’m glad, because it was a hard four days.
Mom was in and out of agony due to pain from various causes the whole time. Two broken legs, exacerbated by other painful ailments made her absolutely miserable except for short periods of time. It was so hard to watch her face contort and her shoulders hunch with pain. It was so hard to listen to her crying, her pleading, and to see her tears. The feeling of utter helplessness just swept over me like a mighty wave and left me exhausted.
This afternoon, however, was different. I have to leave for San Francisco in the morning and so this was my last opportunity to see her on this trip. God blessed me with a wonderful time as I sat next to her bed, holding her hand, feeding her ice chips for almost an hour. She was very comfortable and we were able to talk, and laugh and reminisce about so many things. I reviewed the things that she needed to remember in order to get better. We talked about Jesus and Dad and the moon. We discussed grandchildren and milkshakes and cobwebs. She apologized to me for “messing up my life so much” by falling and breaking her legs, thus requiring me to come to care for her. I refused her apology telling her there was none required. It was a very sweet time and I’ll always remember it. I’m so grateful for it.
You see, I don’t know if I’ll ever see my Mother again on this side of eternity. The human condition is such that the reality of death’s moment is immanent for us all. It could happen at any time. But when you are 92, lying in a bed with two broken legs, and at the mercy of the “medical care machine,” death’s immanence seems more and more likely to become a present reality at any time. If, indeed, this is the last time I’ll see my Mom on this earth, then this was a wonderful way for it to unfold. To preserve the memory, I left just a bit sooner than I intended because I knew that the staff was gathering in the hallway, getting ready to move mom about and check her weight. I know how awful that is for her.
My last words to Mom today were, “I really love you Mom … but Jesus loves you more.” She looked at me and said, “I love you both.”
I let go of her hand … turned and walked to my car. As I began to drive down the street I had to pull over for a few moments. My vision was suddenly blurred and my nose was running. Yeah … I guess I was crying. I didn’t anticipate it nor do I really understand it. But as I cried, I also cried out to God and asked Him to be to my Mom all I could not be: Her perfect protector, defender, provider and advocate. I thanked him for the time He gave us this afternoon and while I hope to have some more of those times in this life, I have a certainty that I will see her again … if not in this life, then in the next. And maybe we’ll talk about the glory of heaven, the galaxies in space, the wonders of the Savior’s face and yes, maybe even some of the weird people we’ve known over the years.