I'm angry today.
I'm angry at the visitors that get to sit by mom and say hello while meaning goodbye while I am separated by an international border, hundreds of kilometres, and an airplane ticket that says I can only be reunited with her one week from today. I want to be the recipient of her weak smiles and weak hand holds and not only receiving updates after they've all taken the bulk of her energy.
I'm upset that some of her visitors cared little for her in life but revel in the optic they now get to present to the world of themselves as concerned friend and social do-gooder while for years they ignored her cheery hellos in hallowed church halls. Yet I understand the desire for reconciliation and hope there are some unspoken apologies exchanged in the last moments.
I hesitate to share too openly and broadly of my own sorrow for fear others will respond stupidly with 'anecdotes and cute quotes' and provoke the temptation to break something fragile over their heads. It would be a great embarrassment to both of us and a shame to waste good china and I'm already ashamed that it's my plate that I think about first. I know they mean well and I want to apologize for the ugly thoughts I'm harbouring and replace them with gratitude and warm hugs but today I simply cannot.
I'm jealous of friends who I see out with their eighty-four year old mothers and realize I can only imagine what mom would be doing while supported by fragile bones, what she would look like with deep(er) wrinkles, how her soft hands would feel, and whether she would ever be the kind of grandma who keeps striped mints beside her La-Z-Boy for visiting great-grandchildren.
I'm confused at how I can be surrounded by life (five kids and one always reminding me of her presence with constant kicks to the bladder and heels poking through expanding flesh makes it impossible to forget) and think only of loss. When others press in to offer comfort and support, I only want to wave over the phone line or give a thumbs up in response to their emails to say I'm holding up and keeping on and to risk you dropping by with dinner or flowers would mean you might perhaps catch me in a moment of chaos when all day I've just let the dishes sit and the laundry pile up and then what? I struggle with remaining strong because perhaps anything less would belie the hope I still hold for a miracle, that this is all a momentary dream and, once I wake, will become only a foggy memory.
But it's the fog that envelopes me today. It clouds my visions and fills my heart with tears that I attempt to keep at bay with the little energy I have left after last night's fitful rest and long whispered prayers (the prayers are short - "God!" "Please..." "Help." "I trust you..." - but the circuit runs on and on on continual repeat long past midnight).
And so, confessing this all to God and cracking open the only words that can speak deep truth to a wound this raw, I seek His presence. I know He's near, right here at my gold-dusted kitchen table (remnants of yesterday's school project) squeezed in between my son who works dutifully at math calculations and my morning cup of tea. Or perhaps He's there, to my left, silencing my fears even above the drone of pre-nap cartoons for my little one. Wherever He rests, I feel the weight of His comfort and flooding my spirit.
"Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and light."
Suddenly I can see His grace and know that despite my anger, I am surrounded with love. I can see that He's lifting my burden of grief with meals delivered unannounced by my mother-in-law and with daughters who rise early unrequested to care for their baby brother. And I know that the ones I desperately want to be for the moments they get with mom are ministering angels delivering joy and representing the lives she has touched. I recall the hope others have reminded me of in emails and messages and through the sharing of their own travels through similar valleys of shadows and I believe again that joy does come even in the mourning. I read of future golden streets and suddenly the pot-holed pavement of this season seem more bearable.
I am no longer angry in this moment. I am at peace and able to battle more fiercely for the one whose heart I cannot read but I know is fading. This road is refining me but I want it to be the growth of love and empathy and gratitude that defines me. If I can reflect that, I know the hours upcoming when I will be by mom's side will not be wasted.