Leaning back in the uncomfortable arm chair, I was mesmerized by the magnolia’s silhouette in the silvery, pre-dawn moonlight. A lovely distraction on the other side of the window, breaking up what had been a long, hard night that would most certainly segue into a long, hard day.
She had been there for the better part of six weeks, in one room or another. This was the best. At least as far as rooms go in skilled nursing. Certainly better than the three hospital rooms she’d been in and out of during that time. The magnolia’s big branches and broad leaves gave us something to stare out at between watching, holding, talking, reading and waiting. Pretending to be absorbed in something, anything, outside when our minds were on nothing but the inside of that room and my sweet mother who was transitioning to her heavenly state. “Going,” they called it, the people who knew. “Oh,” with the sad look, ”she’s going.” At first I was puzzled. Then I realized. They can tell. She had the look. The breathing. Going.
It was no quick trip, either. Whispers and looks. “What do you think she’s waiting for? Is there someone she wants to see?” Names called out in her sleep. Elaine! Edward! One living, one not. Elaine rushed over, still in uniform, frazzled from an international work flight. “I’m here.” Nothing. Still going but not gone.
We were moved to a private room, a family room. Drinks and snacks, for the family who just couldn’t eat, and room for the mattress and the cot and the chair Daddy, Jake and I had slept on during those last days. She was our precious cargo and we wanted to be there to see her to heaven, day or night. We covered her in prayers, a prayer quilt, and hymns. Resting my head on her chest, humming “How Great Thou Art.”
“I love that song,” Aunt Sharon said.
In a way, I wish that was the last of my memories there. It wasn’t, though, and in reality I wanted desperately to see her to the end…to the beginning. I believed that if she went when I was away for a moment, it would be because she chose it to be that way, and I would accept it.
In the end, though, we were together, Mama, Daddy and me.
And then there were two.