Been thinking a lot about my Mom lately.
She died March 2, 1985, when she was 59 and I was 26.
She died of advanced ovarian cancer.
"Gilda Radner's Disease," before Gilda died from it.
She died after a year and two months of fighting it futilely.
And 24 years later, I still cry thinking about that night,
and about how much I miss her.
She died without knowing any of her grandkids, especially the one I had aborted 7 years earlier.
I'm now only 9 years younger than my Mom was when she died. Maybe that's why I'm thinking of her a lot these days.
Maybe it's because several dear friends have lost or are now losing their elderly parents.
There is never a good time to lose a parent, I think.
Never a "good age."
I wrote the accompanying poem in August 1984, the summer she was ill.
I had been taking the train down to New York City on the weekends when she was at Sloan Kettering for monthly triple-cocktail chemo which did no good and only much bad.
Sleeping on a couch in the lounge, or taking the LIRR to my folks' home in LI for the restless night, then coming back Sunday morning for the day before training back to Connecticut and going to work again Mondays.
On the other three weekends I'd drive to the house and visit there.
Even after she slipped into a coma the last month.
Until the last weekend, when my brother came into the room where I was sleeping and woke me in the middle of the night, saying, "The night nurse said to come down NOW."
We all entered Mom's room, gathering around her bed, the nurse off to the side. I wondered, how does the nurse know?
We wept, we told Mom we loved her and one of us said, "We will miss you, Mom, but it's ok... to go... We'll be ok..." I don't know if it was me or my sister or my brother. I doubt it was my father. He was too speechless with grief. My other brother couldn't be there; he worked nights as a night watchman somewhere. But he loved her just the same.
We didn't know if she could hear us at all. The coma had begun a month before.
But slowly, Mom opened her eyes, and with no pain in them, only love, she just gazed at each one of us for a few moments. It was not reflexive, it was not involuntary. She looked at us a long time, saying goodbye with her eyes. She made no sound. We tried to be brave, I suppose, but it moved me to my core and I, we, smiled at her through our tears. Then she closed her eyes.
Each breath she took was more difficult. We did not know when one breath left her, if that was the last one. Until...it just was.
I wrote this poem when I was very far from God, and very angry at Him.
It took many years, much growth, much pain, and many prayers, before I was able to stop being angry at God.
One's year is another's lifetime.
One's lifetime should be everything
you want it to be. How, though, to condense
that effort and experience of a lifetime,
into one year, or two? Pick and choose;
what would you do?
Sleeping so softly, like an infant.
Eyelids flickering, one or two fingers
squeezing mine every once in awhile.
The tube crackling faintly like a wet wire.
She looks like a Marine,
with a soft crewcut growing in...
Don't take her.
Can't sleep alone at night.
Can't stay awake at night.
This ward will make me
toughened to many things
but never immune.
My stomach turns every time
but I've learned to keep on
eating my lunch.
Don't bring her pain.
Isn't it enough that she
may die not knowing
her first grandchild?
That she's losing the fight?
Don't kick her when she's down.
You know she deserves this
less than any of us.
If You can allow this
to happen to her,
how much worse off
will the rest of us be?
Don't. Don't think about it.
Not now. Wait until later.
Maybe after Sunday. Then I can.
But then I have to switch into high gear again,
and go back to work and perform...
How I'll long to see her chest rise and fall,
and her fingers move like an infant's in sleep,
Hope, prayers, comfort, solace, grace, to all those out there losing parents, at any age in life.