When I left last week to give my youngest sister a hand at Mom’s house, I never imagined what has unfolded since Monday; my mother has terminal cancer, metastasized all down her spine. Severe back pain that started in mid-April has suddenly become more than I can fathom, my siblings and Mom’s four sisters feeling the same. It’s as if I’m now living in an alternate universe where the sun still shines yellow in a blue sky, leafy-green trees blowing in a stiff breeze, yet my mom will never see another summer.
I’ll not share another Easter with her, or Thanksgiving. Not Christmas or her birthday or Mother’s Day…. That was the last time I saw her before last week. She looked tired and thin, but back pain will sap the energy right out of a person. Cancer does that too. Most likely she’s had it for months, but only in the past two was it noticeable. And, and, and…. The writer in me sits in stupefied silence attempting to fathom this awful truth. Dad’s only been gone for three years and now Mom’s right behind him.
I’m grateful for my faith, but this remains difficult because my eyes view that which is corporeal. Yellow sun. Blue sky. Green trees rushing about in the wind…. When I headed home yesterday, all I saw seemed like new vistas. My whole family is gearing up for a huge adjustment day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment. I’ve been mulling over the moments since last Sunday night when my sister and I realized there was more to Mom’s poor health than a wrenched back and achy hips.
When Dad died, I consoled myself that Mom was in fairly good health, also six years his junior. Time seemed a plentiful notion, but time is as slight as the fleeting breeze, as brief as the sunset, as ethereal as the last five days since we took Mom to the emergency room where the ER doc gave us the news, then confirmed by another physician who used those words: stage four. Now that term seems almost quaint after how many MRIs and CT scans and biopsies. We wanted to know why she hurt, and yes, information is better than ignorance, but this cuts so deeply. How she can be so peaceful is a mystery; I told my brother either we’ve been graced by an angel or she’s the best con artist alive.
While I know it’s the former, my heart throbs pondering memories and times that won’t come to pass. Again I turn to my faith, for which I am so grateful, a belief Mom shares. Usually I’m a calm sort, my hopes set upon an unseen future. Yet currently my feet are mired in clay that clings as if another day shall never dawn. With much effort I pry one foot loose, setting it on dry ground, straddling two worlds. Mom seems to be doing that with ease. I, however, am struggling.
In the interim, I’ll be making road trips, spending as much time with Mom as possible. Maybe I’ll sew hexies with her, I know we’ll enjoy some lovely chats. But mostly I will cherish these upcoming days and weeks, tucking them away in my heart. When our hearts are breaking, I like to think they are growing, and once healed, more love can enter. I pray that happens again, and when Mom is gone, ample space will be waiting inside my chest muscle. We are here to love and laugh, and to move forward. I don’t know how it might happen, but by grace I’m sure it will.