“Hi, Ma” I say and she smiles or frowns back at me, depending on my mood, with our likenesses more profound the older I get – and the closer I come to the age she died.
I think of Ma more vividly on special days; her birthday, mine, holidays, and the Ides of March, which is the day she passed away. It was also the birthday of my Aunt Christine. We had several years in our family where one or the other relative passed on one of our birthdays.
At any rate, I’ve been thinking of my mom and about her last gift to me.
Just days before her death, on a sunny afternoon in her hospital room, Ma patted her bed for me to come over and sit. She was bandaged and bruised where the doctor has attempted putting a port in for her to receive chemo. Unfortunately, the cancer had spread too far and there was nothing to be done but to make her comfortable.
On this particular day, March 10 or 11, Ma was very cognizant and she wanted to talk with me. She made her simple wishes known and then we talked about faith and her dying.
My mother’s faith was simple and unquestioning. She wasn’t all that afraid; just enough so to want to talk about it, and so we did. We talked about God and heaven and those she would see again, especially my father. We cried and held hands and she called me her rock (a title I never wanted) and in those moments together my mother gave me the last gift I would ever receive from her. She gave me her love and showed me how to say goodbye with grace and dignity.
We were all with her when she passed. I was right at her side and I have always known that I caught her last breath before she went home.
It wasn’t until somewhat recently that I realized I gave her a gift as well. I gave her the moments she needed to put her thoughts and beliefs to rest, to talk about dying – and to say goodbye. It is funny, isn’t it, the things we continue to learn from our parents, long after they are gone?
This morning, when I awoke, we smiled at each other, on this the Ides of March.