She sat in her chair, a rocker in the southeast corner, where she could look out the window. The view was not dynamic, but it gave a certain freedom. It was home. An apartment in assisted living. She had spent time in 24 hour care and was not happy about it but faced it with her usual mirth. Age had grabbed her and begun its steep decline. One eye was totally blind, preventing simple actions such as taking hold of a cup causally. She had to relearn her eye-sight. The walker had come a few years earlier, as the falls with their blue-tinted bruises were too much. The last one she had landed her head first and yellow adorned the blue.
But she righted ship and began to take to the walker. The head first landing, which she did not even remember, had shook her to take her children’s advise. The causes of the falls were due to age. But the mixing of medications had added to complexity of faculty. This was what her middle daughter had discovered. Again, she promised to be better at taking her meds and keeping them organized. And she did.
She did what she knew she had to do to keep from becoming a complete ward of the system. This she dreaded and worked hard to “keep the wolf from the door.” And as various other functions began to go amiss, she “soldiered” on to make the best of what she could do.
Reaching the age of 97 was not what she had wanted. She had wanted to go out at 93. She was a “believer.” She knew where she was going. Oh, that others did not agree with her Faith bothered her not a twit. She just kept centered on her Lord and proved positive that she could continue to be a welcomed hostess to numerous friends and family no matter what their advocation to the next life was.
She was under no illusion that she would be missed beyond the usual “time table.” Life did go one for all. She knew she was loved. And appreciated it. She also knew what it was like to lose a child when she had five others to care for. She buried her husband when he could not recognize her. With both, the wounding was severe and deep. She held fast to those of her loved circle, both friends and family. She understood that love was the central ticket to moving through each day. She accepted what came her way and tried to adjust to the negatives the best way that she could.
She had made her peace with her God when she was preparing for the last heart surgery. It was during this when the surgeons had found that her heart was missing a major artery! Yet, if any heart harbored more love than hers, it would be difficult to find!
So she waggled on and kept up with her correspondence and forwarding of materials that would lighten other’s days, make heart’s warm and smiles to erase concerns. She was purposed for being a complete embracement of what a person could do at any age, to love unceremonious and completely, and divine this to others in her own special way.
She had notified family at 93 she was not willing to go through any attempt to keep her alive, that she would not be subjected involuntarily to any hospital stay or resuscitation. She wanted to go home to her Lord and Savior and see her daughter and husband.
“I saw Cindy in a dream. It was on her 50th birthday. She was all grown up.”
“What was she like Mom?
“Oh, she was beautiful!”
“Can you describe her??
“No, I can’t.”
She had grown weary of people in the assisted living facility dying and leaving her. Evelyn, her favorite friend had “left” two weeks earlier. She did not want to will herself to be gone. That never entered her mind.
“You know Mom, you are still here because God is still desiring to use you.”
“I believe that.”
“It is not because we want you to stay, though we do, it is because He has you where you are blessing others.”
“Well, I hope that is right. I try.”
She did try. In a shaved off community of elderly people, all with ailments or disabilities that required assistance, there were always those who grated. She might briefly talk of one, but just as quickly said she understood. And if family or friends visited, they had better be ready to be introduced to even the grating ones; even if it was the third or perhaps fourth time.
Her oldest son had established a connection to an audio book program to help continue her relationship to a source that she loved, books. Her appetite for reading had escalated as she became single in her living arrangements. She did watch T.V., but deep down she needed the accume of a good author to satisfy her active mind. Long ago she had seen how T.V. had been whittled down to an eighth grade mentality.
She was content. Yet she also was tired. Her family all secretly hoped that she would just go to sleep and not wake up. Like in a fairy tale. They also harbored deep seeded sentiment that “Mom” would always be there, knowing this to be untrue. Duplicity at work on their collective minds.
So it was never really believed that she would go. The prevailing attitudes were “should I call Mom today?” They all had their ways of staying in contact. One would write lovely long, hand written letters. Another would take her to church. Her baby girl was always available for the little crisis that occurred as well as the oldest boy to fix all the physical repair needs. And the extended family also had their communicative ways; pictures and phone calls the norm. Her web of love went out beyond what one normally saw at this junction of life.
She had taken to sleeping for many hours of the day, with the blessings of her children. Their only real concern was that the multiple medicines were being taken and she was eating enough. And to these concerns she put herself to task, more to keep them happy but also because it was expected of her. She took simple pride in doing what was expected. This demonstrated that she still could function in a lifestyle of achievement, not placed upon the shoulders of her children or the State. This was important to her.
The summer evening dusk had arrived that Tuesday. She had grown weary from the day’s activities. Her walker escorted her to the bathroom door where she relinquished hold and used the rails and sink for balance. She proceeded to ready herself in her usual manner, the method rote. Concluding, she worked her way back to the walker, moving to the bedroom. She proceeded to undress, folding her clothes as if they had come straight off the mangle she had used 60 years ago to prepare the family’s clothing for the next day. She placed them on the clothes rack. The nightgown was neatly waiting by her favorite pillow. She slipped it on and lay down with a sigh. Living was not easy. She remembered much, but there were huge gaps in the tidings of the past of which she did not connect to. She was fine with this, but oh how she tired so easily.
Bed reading at ceased when the one eye had shut down. Now when she lay, it was purposed to sleep. But the evening never was completed without prayers. She recited the prayer that she and her husband had shared for over 50 years, the one she said before her family as he had lain dead at the nursing home. She never missed saying it.
This night she felt compelled to say something to each of her children, though they would never know. They were kind words, loving thoughts, and divine hope for each. As she shut her eyes, a peace swept over her and her breathing, though shallow, was even and nursing. The darkness began to replace dusk and the apartment became “empty.” The small figure on the bed, no more than 95 pounds, curled up on its side. Her white hair, wrapped in a net to preserve it for the next day, now became invisible. Her soft skin, never having left her through all the years, shadowed away. An outsider looking at the scene would have seen loneliness in a serene fashion. But this was not true. She had never been alone.
This touched me at my core. Thank you.