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Ma Is Dying

May 16, 2018 by David Saffold

Tuesday 4/17/2018 Crying Again

This morning I found my eighty-four-year-old mother sleeping with her legs hanging off one side of the bed. She has gotten much weaker and can’t pull her legs up onto the bed anymore. She could last week, why not this week? She cries out in pain as I pull her to sitting position – I have to hold her back so she doesn’t fall back on the bed. Everything with her is a chore – hard labor! I flinch when her pain makes her cry out. Her hip muscle has stretched from lying like that all night. I finally get her to her recliner and get some Tylenol down her throat. “Ouch, ouch, ouch, everything hurts” is the song she is constantly singing. I beg her to eat something but can only convince her to drink a little vitamin drink. So I sit down on the couch and my eyes well up with tears. I have a great urge to cry just like I cried yesterday morning. I don’t know what to do and nobody else knows either. I am helpless and don’t like being helpless – so I cry. I guess I am not the tough-guy I like to think I am.

On the way home, I think of the loving moments I have had with my mother since I brought her up to the senior living facility near my home in Nashville, TN. The other week she asked me to sit down next to her on the bed. She put her arm on my back and I put my arm on her leg. We sat quietly in loving connection. It felt weird because this intimate connection is not something I was used to with my mother. Then there is our little goodbye game we started up since her arrival. When I leave and say “I love you”, she responds with a ‘one-up’, and says “I love you more.” I go further as say “I love you double more!” We go on like that until we break out laughing. I think of these loving moments as I drive back home and know that God is blessings my life. I need these jewels because the rest is slimy, smelly, oozing mess.

Our relationship is quite different from what it had been for ages. Sure, I called my mother every few weeks and visited once or twice a year. She was far away and doing for herself in the golden years of her retirement. She lived alone but had a kind neighbor and some occasional friends looking in on her. She was happy with the bridge game and her murder mysteries. That is all gone now. Now she is dying in my face, up close and personal. I am mad about the upset that this is causing in my life! I wish she would hurry up and die so I can get on with MY life. Yet, I love her and wish I could help her more somehow, someway. Her debilitated condition keeps me feeling like I am not doing enough for her. I want to fix her but everything keeps breaking and she cries out in pain … “Ouch, ouch, ouch, everything hurts!”

I still want to cry, I still don’t know why, I still don’t want to do it, or feel it, or see it, or smell it, or hear it! Ma is dying and I can’t do a damn thing about it. Yet, somewhere, deep within, all is well and I thank God I am here with her during this time.

Friday 4/20/2018

I went to see my mother this morning as usual. It was early and so was dark in her apartment. I saw her lying in the bed and walked over to see if she was awake. Her eyes were open and so I was about to speak but didn’t – She wasn’t awake. It took a few moments for my comprehension to catch up with the sight before me. I was offended by the sight of death on my mother’s face. I tried to close her eyelids but they popped open again so I used more force. The movies make it seem easy. I then tried to close her mouth but to no avail, so I pulled the covers up over the lower part of her face. Now she looked peaceful. I lay down beside her and put my arms around her one last time. The warmth of her body told me she had just left. I hope she was still close enough to know I was there with her even at her last moment on earth. After a little while, I sat up and cried like a baby for a bit and then quietly stood vigil as the legions of emotions and memories marched in review before my awareness. I saluted as bravely as I could – hut, -two, -three, -four …

All day long people expressed their condolences and asked how I was doing. I told them it was a weird thing to be experiencing immense joy and deep sadness at the very same time. It is surreal to cry while feeling wonderfully blessed. Both my joy and my sadness felt eerily beautiful in their own way. Intermixed within all these emotions of this day was the the feelings of deep loneliness accompanying the realization of the end of the great epoch of my life.

That night, as I lay in bed, my mother came to me and said, “My beloved son, I came to you these past three months to prepare you for this day. The baton is now in your hands. No more will I be there before you on the conveyor-belt of life. From now on, when you look up, you will only see the eternal darkness. You must look within for the light as you move towards the dark void beyond. Farewell my wonderful son.”

Farewell my wonderful, beautiful Ma!