You are leaving us. Even as I write, you may have already drawn your last breath. If not now, then soon. I got the call I’ve dreaded for so long while walking in downtown Portland strolling little Zadie. Of course, it had to come and it’s a miracle you’ve stayed with us so long. In three weeks, you would have turned 93!
If I’m honest, I should feel nothing but joy for your spirit flown free from your ancient body and troubled mind. I should feel nothing but relief that you won’t have to endure another day with nothing to look forward to that brings you pleasure. Almost all of the last six years in a wheelchair, no more reading, no TV, no friends, little coherent conversation, no activities that interested you. Still, you had your moments of euphoria from some simple pleasures— like sitting outside with the smell of fresh air and the sight of flowers in bloom, occasional car rides with me around San Francisco, ice cream or coffee at the café and mostly, sitting at my side while I played piano and people gathered around and sang. You had your moments of great lucidity, channeling profound thoughts from who knows where. And so many outpourings of your unconditional mother love, exclaiming time and time again your amazement at how your children turned out. I drank it up like water in the desert. You’ll never know how much comfort it gave me.
But these last few months have been hard. Long days of just staying in bed. Uncontrolled rage at just the pain of aging, spitting at us and throwing things and screaming or long monologues about some nightmare you had with you anxious about helping the little girl whose head was chopped off or some such Freudian twisted tale. Even then, though, those gifted moments of lucidity and your beautiful smile and your swaying and conducting the music. But less and less. And then this last visit, when it seemed clear that your life force was fading to a new low, but still you gathered all your energy to give me a little kiss and show me a little smile and sit quietly by my side while I played piano.
Mom, go if you must, but if you want to hold on, I will come home to hold you. You birthed me into this world and I would be honored to be there as you cross over out of this world. But I know you have your own timetable and what will be, will be. Fly free! My grief will not be for you passing out of your mortal body after 93 full years, but for me left behind without you. You have known and loved me my whole life plus nine months— longer than anyone else. Though the you I have known and loved was fading with each passing year, month, week, still I wonder how I will endure without you at my side. But of course I will, borne up by the memory of every moment we have passed together.
I will be writing again in the days and weeks to come— still so much to say and yet we said it all, indeed had passed beyond words to music and beyond music to loving silence.
And so we will continue.