Yesterday we were surprised to see Ma out of bed. It was the first time in over a week. The nurse told us Ma asked to be transferred into the stuffed recliner next to the bed.
“Good morning mother, how are you feeling?” Roxy asked.
“Not too good.” Ma replied in her quiet voice.
“My neck hurts.”
She was sitting in her chair with pillows propped around her. One of the pillows caused her head to be in an awkward position kind of burying her chin into her chest. I thought, she’s feeling good enough to complain—she must be feeling better. We repositioned her pillows and she told us, “that’s better.”
And then I remembered the question.
I’d been praying about it for awhile. Asked God to remind me if He wanted me to ask...I never remembered—until just then.
It was only Roxy and I in the room.
“Ma, do you know what’s happening to you?” I asked.
“No. I wish somebody would find out.” She said.
“Well, you don’t have a disease, like cancer or anything…but you are eighty-seven.”
“I know.” She had her eyes closed. “But there are others who are eighty-seven.” She started breathing a little heavier than before. “They put us in a basement. It was wet. It was damp… and cold.”
I asked. “You were in a cold wet basement. When you were a child you mean?”
She shook her head, “No.”
I had an idea. “You mean you were in a cold wet basement with others who were eighty-seven—and so you think that’s how you got sick?”
“Yes.” She whispered and nodded, her eyes were still closed.
I took a deep breath and released it slow trying to think. I read somewhere that people who are nearing death will start to sleep a lot. While they’re sleeping—they’re processing what’s happening to their body. And many times they come to grips with the reality that they’re dying before their loved ones.
Ma had been sleeping a lot. She alluded to dying on a few occasions to others, but never to me. I figured she knew down inside what was happening but needed someone to confirm it, to share the load, let her know she wasn’t carrying the cross of this knowledge all by herself.
If a person thinks they alone carry the knowledge that they’re dying, then sharing this knowledge, in a way that won’t break their loved ones hearts, becomes a burden almost too great to bear.
Maybe Ma was trying to figure out a cause for her physical decline, because if there was a cause—like being in a damp basement—then surely there’d be a cure.
I cleared my throat and held her hand. “Ma, you’re not sick because you were put in a wet basement.” Her eyes and lips squeezed shut a little tighter. I got the feeling she didn’t want to believe it, because she knew what was coming next.
I let that sink in and waited. Her face relaxed and she took one full even breath and ever so slightly nodded. I continued. “You, the real you, the loving, caring, compassionate you, is not sick and is not going to die. You are just getting ready to move. You’re going to a place where there is no sickness, no disease, no sorrow and no pain…just Love, joy and peace. However, you can’t take this body with you. You’re going to shed this skin you live in. It—your body—is tired and preparing to take its final rest, from which it will never wake. You are leading the way, showing your family how to go through this door with courage and integrity and peace and love."
She sat quiet, moving her lips up and down a bit. Finally she spoke clear and quiet. “I guess that sounds about right…about what’s happening to me.”
I repeated what she said just to be sure I heard her right. She nodded and whispered. “But we don’t want to do that right away.”
What an honor it is to know this woman was all I could think.
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