Walking Our Faith: A flickering light
Walking Our Faith
What I will remember most vividly about this time is the warmth of her hand in mine and the impossibly paper thinness of her skin.
It was her first night home from the hospital. She was sleeping in the hospital bed provided by hospice home care. We set it up in the living room along the wall facing the fireplace.
She had called me from my bed at 5:30 in the morning — not for the first time, and it won’t be the last. I stood by her bedside and asked her if there was something she needed. She asked me to pull up a chair next to her bed, sit beside her and hold her hand until she was able to fall asleep again.
According to the doctors, Mom has entered the end-of-life stage. She was rushed to the hospital last Saturday after her oxygen level dropped, and her already weakened heart struggled to clear the fluid in her lungs. She is nearly 95 years old, has lived with congestive heart failure for 13 years, and her heart is tired.
She has entered a tipping point that feels more like a shadow land. This morning she said she felt it was too early for her to be in hospice, so I asked her if she would like to get out of bed and into her wheelchair. She said “no.”
My brother has flown up from Florida to spend a few days with Mom, and apart from a 30-minute conversation reminiscing about our childhoods, each day has been like any other.
I take a walk with my dog, Bear, in the afternoon to gaze at the mountains, appreciate the cold air and clear my head as I write this column — something I’ve done hundreds of times in my quiet neighborhood. And that’s just it: Swirling around Mom’s prognosis, everything is the same.
We don’t know how far this leg of the journey will take us. Mom’s doctors say it could be days or weeks or months. So what must we do in our walk through the shadowlands?
What is important now is neither to look forward nor backward but to experience this moment, to focus on the shared experiences still available to us. Everything is valuable now.
So I am paying attention when I cook for my mother. I want the food to be healthy and delicious so that she can see the care that I put into each meal. The food nourishes her body even on those days when she doesn’t have much of an appetite or on other days when she surprises me by finishing everything that’s on her plate. Cooking has always been an easier way for me to express the feelings in my heart.
Last night’s chimichurri chicken and vegetable kebabs paired with an arugula blue cheese and date salad brought over by a friend were a big hit. This morning’s baked eggs in spinach and shallots and served on rye toast were good but a bit dry.
Journaling every morning anchors my day, as does searching for consolation in the word of God, but most of all, I am praying for wisdom. So many decisions must be made.
The thing about this final act of life is that it asks so much of the caregiver and the cared for, yet it also asks that we not see one another just in those roles but also as the people we have been throughout our lives: mother and daughter, Adele and Suzanne.
There is so much more to share with you about the abundant kindness of people in our community who have called and stopped by to spend time with Mom, the outpouring of love for a woman they’ve only known for nine months. And I will, God willing, share more in the coming weeks.
But I want to start here in this delicate moment. In the tenderness of the grip of my mother’s hand in mine, how it represents our changing roles in this moment, yet how unchanging our roles are. She is still my mother. I am still her daughter. I know that will be true from now until her last breath, no matter how soon or how far that is from this present moment.
“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” — Ruth 1:16-17
The Way Forward spring speaker series continues with Janel Apps Ramsey at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 27 at Breckenridge Christian Ministries, 105 Sawmill Road.
Ramsey is one of the co-founding members of Brew Theology, a growing interfaith community creating meaningful and eclectic dialogue in brewpubs.
For more information, email email@example.com.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking Our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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