|artist Michael Meier|
Dear Husband and I were with our spiritual director last night, and I spoke of this. She said, "You know, my parents have both been gone for over 20 years, and I still have moments where I think, 'I wish you were here." And she went on to speak of the "body experience" (which is a very Franciscan thing) of missing loved ones: the longing for the touch, the voice.
I don't want Mom "back." I pray her soul is at peace with God. But her voice, her hug. Whenever I visited, she would stand at her door as I was leaving and wave. "Call me when you get home, so I know you're safe." I'm 50 years old, and she still worried about sending her baby out into the world, where so many bad things can happen. How can I not miss that?
I'm surrounded by her things. I wear her engagement ring as my own now. My parents were married nearly 60 years; I hope Dear Husband and I enjoy at least that much time together. But it's not the ring. It's the story of how Dad met Mom, how he courted her and then asked her to marry him. Tell us again, Daddy...
A year ago, I was sleep-deprived, standing watch over her as she struggled so mightily to shed her mortal shell. She had stopped speaking, but would cry out in the night, "Thy will be done." My brother or I would pray the rosary aloud, and we would hear her voice, weak but firm: "pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death."
My brother would arrive to "spell" me. I'd go grab a few hours of sleep, and then continue sorting through her things. Every item I touched required a decision. To whom should this go? Who will be the caretaker now? Should this be tossed? And then, I'd go back to Mom and hold the hand that had held each of these items.
I know that some people associate death with a body in a casket at a funeral home. The hushed tones. The boxes of Kleenex everywhere. Dimmed lights. But that's not death.
Death - like birth - is a privilege to behold, but is also so incredibly painful. That soul is lurching, as if in labor pains, to go back to whence it came: to be with God. For the ones standing by the bedside, you hold the hand, you wipe the brow, you feed ice chips. More than anything, you pray.
My birthday in 2015 was spent in exactly the same spot that my first birthday was celebrated: in the same hospital where I was born. This time, though, the roles were reversed: I was the caretaker, the one who tended to the cry.
I have this hurdle to clear on Friday. I will pray, as I do every day, that Mom and Dad have found eternal rest, and if not, that God may grant them that rest quickly. But still...
I am sure George MacDonald said it far better than I ever could, in his poem, A Prayer for the Past:
But were they dead in me,
they live In Thee, Whose Parable is—Time,
And Worlds, and Forms—all things that give
Me thoughts, and this my rime.
Father, in joy our knees we bow:
This earth is not a place of tombs:
We are but in the nursery now;
They in the upper rooms.
For are we not at home in Thee,
And all this world a visioned show;
That, knowing what Abroad is, we
What Home is too may know?