In the morning I slipped into Mom’s bedroom. I sat on the side of her bed and brushed a tangle of hair from her forehead. She smiled.
“Morning dear,” she replied softly.
“Do you want to get up for some breakfast?” She nodded a gentle yes as a small grin slipped into her face.
“How was your night?” I asked as I helped her rise from under the covers to sit on a cushioned chair beside her bed.
She paused as our eyes met. “I had a strange dream last night.”
The morning sun was falling into the room through a gap in the drapes and a swath of hazy light lay across the space. “Want to tell me about it?” I covered her lap with a blanket. Her face looked brighter with the morning light. I tried to remember her long brown hair as a tender energy slipped into my heart from the past. Mom didn’t look at me, just bowed her head and stared at her hands in her lap.
She started slowly and methodically. “I was in a hospital bed covered in white sheets…” The space between us filled with an empty pause as she recalled. “I could see myself…there in that bed, but…” She looked up at me. She was nodding, and then looked up toward the ceiling. My gaze followed hers. “I could see myself in the bed below me…as if I was sitting up there…” she pointed, “near the ceiling…in the corner. I was watching myself from there.”
She took a deep breath that took two skips in the middle, and then she paused again. I waited… suddenly afraid. “You were there. You were sitting on one side of the bed and Ann was on the other side. I could see a doctor in a white coat at one end of the bed, and Tom was sitting at the other end.” Mom lowered her head again, tipped it to the left and then the right as if trying to roll her memory forward.
“I was calling out to everyone saying “Can’t you see me?” She raised her right arm from her lap and waved. “I’m up here. Up here!” Her voice was a little louder, “I’m the light in the corner of the room!” She glanced up at me, a hint of question on her face, tiny slips of tears sparkled in her eyes. Her hand reached out to touch mine. She smiled again as if it all meant nothing.
My breath was caught up in my chest. My eyes were locked upon hers. I knew what the dream meant …but how could I believe it?
Mom had been ailing for many years and had dealt with tremendous pain. The doctors had no idea what ailed her even after performing nearly every test known to modern medicine. Some of the tests had been almost torturous and were too gruesome to explain. Mom faced them all with her humor. Test after test, and they would never amount to anything but more pain.
She had told me of one of her admissions to the teaching hospital in the city. She said the ‘white coats’ would arrive in small groups, sometimes three or four times a day. It was always a new group, new faces, young and old alike, it didn’t seem to matter. She knew they were doctors. They never spoke with her except to ask odd questions that seemed unrelated to her or her problems. She said they would just mumble amongst themselves, write something down, shake their heads or shrug their shoulders, and then leave.
The pain was always worse at night. She told me she would calm the pain by focusing on her breathing and on some faraway place of peace as if meditating. Most of the time, she said, she would be successful but sometimes, not. Now here she was in ICU, only fifty-nine years old and a mere shadow of my mother, emaciated from 180 pounds to less than 100.
She had grown to become my best friend.
My sister, Ann and I had spent the past two months caring for her as she recuperated from her last hospital stay. It was as if both of us had our eyes shut however as we danced around her with all our unspoken faith that recovery was just around the corner. And even though I had worked in healthcare for over thirty years, to this I was blind. I wasn’t seeing her as she really was.
Later that same morning, I took Ann aside. I hesitated to say it, but suddenly I feared we had left things too long already. I told Ann about Mom’s dream. Suddenly we were standing in the middle of the sunroom, silent and frozen, our hands clasped together as if to hold on to a few moments ago when we hadn’t yet thought of death. A heavy silence hung between us.
“You know, maybe we should call the family and tell them that if they want to say…goodbye…” I choked on the word. The rest were gone, dissipated off into the old fantasy we had been living in for months. Ann looked at me. The tears that had polished her eyes were now sliding silently down her face.
We called Dad. We called the family. Then we gently tucked mom into the car for what we feared would be our last journey together.
Ann and I spent six days and nights with Mom in ICU and never left the hospital. We were sleeping on the floor in the quiet room thinking we were fooling the nurses. They knew we were there all along. During all hours of the day and night, we watched over her as she slipped from one state to another.
“Do you suppose Mom wants…needs to “talk” about…anything?” Ann asked me.
What do you say to someone who’s dying?
Mom had been slipping in and out of consciousness, but she had been almost silent. It seemed as if words would disturb her journey somehow. When I asked her if she wanted to talk, with her eyes still closed she said a simple and clear ‘no.’
Finally on the seventh day, I pulled Ann aside and told her I just had to go home, have a shower and a nap in a real bed. I requested that she be sure and call if anything changed.
When I got home, I recall the shower was heavenly and I remember crawling into bed, fully asleep before my head hit the pillow. Any number of hours later the phone rang and I was answering it before my eyes even opened. “The doctor says you should come back.”
It was ten at night, dark and rainy, and the trip to the hospital was twenty miles. “Where are the cops when you need one?” It sounded so cliché.
I entered the ICU almost sprinting. Ann was talking with a nurse at the nursing station. I noticed her hand was on the telephone. She turned to see me, and gasped, “How did you get here so fast? I just hung up!” I just stared into her eyes.
“No really,” she said, “I just hung up.” I couldn’t answer.
Dad came out of Mom’s room to join us. Our eyes met briefly. Dad didn’t do sad or personal. We talked with the doctor over medication to keep her comfortable as we huddled in a corner of the ICU. Dad walked away many times that night in silent repose, his hands tucked into his pockets. We were all trying to understand how we could let her go.
Entering her room, Mom was clearly unconscious and her breathing had grown to laboured and intermittent. Dad sat near the end of the bed, I took an empty chair on one side, Ann on the other. We were silent, each of us caught up in our own nightmare.
A nurse entered the room carrying a large flashlight and a syringe. She turned on the flashlight and placed it on the bedside tray next to Ann, pointing it toward the IV. She injected the drugs into the IV, turned and left the room in silence. I looked over at the flashlight just as dad said, “Ann, turn out the light.” All she said was, “I can’t.”
A short time later, mom drew her last breath. At that very moment the flashlight flared with bright light for a couple of seconds and then went out. “I’m the light in the corner of the room…can’t you see me?”
It was Mother’s Day, 1989.
This experience was one of my miracles. It had proven to me unequivocally that our Consciousness, our Soul, Higher Self, Universal Energy or whatever you choose to call it, does exist and exits upon our death. My journey from that day has been to beat a path across time and space to connect with its wonder and mystery forever. And, I have come to experience that in Spirit, all and everything is possible.
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