Sunday, November 6, 2011
Sister Spirit Comes to Visit
It’s the worst possible time of the year for this to happen. My mother is being yanked from one place to another. First a very nice, caring, but clinical-institutional setting in a long term care facility with residents who are clearly ready to leave this world. No longer communicative, they sit in wheelchairs and moan or stare or talk to themselves. My mother is not at that point – yet. But it’s November, which makes her situation even worse. Eight years ago, almost, my younger sister died suddenly, in her bed, during the night, alone and sad. My mother has never recovered. No parent recovers from that horrible trauma. Soon afterward, transient ischemic attacks removed my mother’s short-term memory and ability to care for herself. The mother instinct lives, though. She doesn’t really know what month it is. Yet in the marrow of her body, written in the pulses of her heart, she knows that this is the time of year when her baby died. “Is Candace dead?” she asks. The shock of her move to the institution of old age has almost undone her. But our spirit sister isn’t ready to give up. Within the week, we receive a call that our first choice, a facility more home-like with residents who can still have fun and conversation, has come available. The CCAC tells me that this kind of luck “never happens”. To be offered another room within a few days is unheard of. This is the first time I wonder, spirit sister at work? There are four sisters remaining and we are united. Together in our love for one another, our mother, our children – we are family. We make decisions as a unit, discussing pros and cons, helping and supporting in whatever ways we can. Thus the resolution to move our mother again is made after much soul-searching, but with an instinct that this is the right thing to do. Despite the shock of a third environment within a week, we say yes. When we bring my mother to her new place and her new room, she is immediately smitten by the ambience, the family-community-like atmosphere. She is exhausted, however, from what she believes was a stint in a “hospital”. Her heart and oxygen rates plunge and the nurse tends to her with concern. My mother sleeps in her chair while my husband and I place pictures, books, familiar objects making the place her own. Suddenly, my mom begins to chuckle, a soft, endearing sound so infused with love that tears spring to my eyes. She is asleep, but she is smiling. A look on her face so beatific, so Madonna, that we both stop in our tracks and watch her. She mumbles something unintelligible, then her hands fold together as though she is cupping a tiny face. She brings her hands to her lips and kisses that unseen face tenderly and joyfully. Relief, happiness, contentedness, all are etched across my sleeping mother’s brow. A short while later, the nurse returns and we rouse our mother to go and have some lunch. When I check on her, she is sitting at a table with three other ladies, happily conversing and eating her soup. She’s smiling, energetic, at home so quickly that no one can believe it. The nurse tells me that Mom’s oxygen and heart levels are back to normal. Though I am not particularly religious, I cannot deny the possibility of a spirit existence. I will never forget the look on my mother’s face as she kissed her baby. Spirit Sister came to visit, to reassure, to comfort.