By Sandra Peters
When I visit my mother’s grave I strangely find myself humming a tune and recalling the chorus
Tears are for watering flowers,
it seems like the logical way,
that is reason I am giving to you,
for crying upon your bouquet.
But then again, really not so strange – my father wrote those lyrics and the melody that plays along in my head is the one he put with the words. The “bouquet” was always yellow roses which is why I made sure that particular bouquet was at her funeral. Twenty years after laying Dad to rest, our final farewell to Mom was individually laying twenty-four yellow roses on her casket. Our words, our actions, and events in our lives cross into others lives often in very significant ways. Here I share with you one example of many.
On Saturday, July 18, 2009, after granting Mom her final wishes by removing all machines and other medical assistance, I remained at her bedside. Shannon, the wonderful nurse on that night told me she had Mom the previous night and asked to have her again. Shannon was very sweet and caring and continued to tell me what to expect as the evening moved into night. About 9 p.m. she told me Mom’s oxygen was down to 65 percent and assured me it was okay to go out to use the restroom. When I returned Shannon had turned Mom to face the reclining chair she had brought in for me. I decided it was time for me to make myself comfortable so I curled up in the chair and, for the first time in four days, I turned on the television. I continued to caress Mom’s arm and it was as if we were watching TV together but for the last time. It was dim, quiet, and very comfortable – just mother and daughter spending the evening together.
Shannon came back into the room around midnight and reported to me that Mom was doing things on her own terms because her oxygen had went up to 72% since she turned Mom facing me. Shannon assured me it was okay for me to go to the restroom again which I planned to be my last trip of the evening as I would remain at Mom’s bedside through the overnight. Shannon was going to take Mom’s vital signs while I was out of the room.
When I returned, Shannon informed me that things were going to proceed faster and it would probably be within the hour. I turned off the television and climbed on my knees in the chair so I could be as close to Mom as possible. I cradled my right arm around her head and my left arm across her chest. My right hand caressed her head and my left caressed her right shoulder. Holding my dear mother like that made me think of a children’s story and I proceeded to tell Shannon this story as she worked with the machine behind me.
“There’s a little church around the corner from my house and when I saw they put up a ramp I was able to take my daughter to church. As an effort to accommodate her low vision, I asked the minister if he knew of any materials that would be good for her. He told me someone from the congregation had given him a gift certificate to the bible bookstore in Potsdam and would be pleased if he could give it to us to use. I accepted his gracious gift and at the bookstore I asked the lady for assistance in locating material that would be good for my daughter. She guided me to all the right things and pointed out her favorite children’s book.”
I paused as I soaked in the moment, caressing my mother’s aged skin, watching her lips blow out less now, the dimness of the ICU room, and Shannon continuing her work as she listened to my every word.
“Once home I read the book called Love you forever. Do you know the story?” I asked Shannon. She did not so I continued.
“It was not a Bible story nor did it have any religious connection in it whatsoever. The story began with a mother and her baby son. The mother says a poem and one line is ‘Love you forever’. Then the son is a toddler and it shows the mother tucking the son into bed and telling him the poem with the line ‘Love you forever’. It then shows him about 9 years old with toy trucks around and the mother takes him in, tucks him into bed and tells him the poem with the line ‘Love you forever’. “
In a peace like no other, I gazed upon my mother’s face as I continue to cradle her head, gently caress and softly tell Shannon the rest of the story.
“It proceeds on to show the grown son, married with children of his own and the mother coming to his house and still kissing him good night and saying the poem with the line, ‘Love you forever’. At the end of the story the grown son goes to his mother’s house and it shows him carrying his frail mother up the stairs, and he tucks her in bed and tells her the poem with the line …‘Love you forever.’
Mom exhaled her very last time as I uttered the last three words of that story – love you forever.
Like every year, my mother was over for Christmas the year I got the books from the Bible bookstore and I showed her what I had found. I remember telling Mom, “But this one, boy, I think this one is actually more for me,” and I read it to her. We both sniffled and laughed at, well, I guess, we laughed at this thing called motherhood. I took the book into my son’s room and told him “this is what I expect from you in years to come” and put the book on his bookshelf. I was still laughing at myself as I left the bewildered boy’s bedroom.
Before I left Mom’s ICU room, I wrote on a piece of paper “Love You Forever by Robert Munsch” and gave it to Shannon. She appeared to be as moved by what she had witnessed as I was and I knew this story would forever be special to her as well. As we hugged and said our farewell she told me she planned to ask me for the title and author because she needed to by the book for her mother. And I bet she did.
The Reverend that Mom had selected for her funeral is the same Reverend that gave me the gift certificate which was used to purchase the book Love You Forever. I gave him a copy of the story of Mom’s passing. He, in his own way, shared the summary of the book as part of Mom’s service and ended by telling us “Lila will love you forever, as you will love her forever.”
A man writes down some song lyrics, another man writes a children’s book, a woman gives her minister a gift certificate, a minister gives a gift certificate to a member of his congregation, a bookstore clerk shares a favorite book with a customer, a nurse goes to work. Yes, our words and our actions cross into others’ lives in the most significant ways and most often it occurs unknowingly to us. I believe we all should learn to recognize and appreciate such crossings, learn when to simply trust rather than seek explanation or assurance. Most of all we must always remember that our own words and actions can be a crossing for someone else.
Merry Christmas, Mom, love you forever.