Report from a Friend
This is an extraordinary note that I received from a friend. She is at home with her mother, who is dying of ovarian cancer, and other family members and close friends. In spite of the overwhelming sadness of the situation, her family's love and spirit shine, and I think there are lessons here for us all.
Things continue to be steady here. My best friend has come for a week from North Carolina, which has been wonderful. She's noticed some things I wanted to share with you; it's good to see a situation through fresh eyes.
It is perhaps obvious that this is hard. Perhaps too obvious! But there are many wonderful things too that help balance the hardness.
Mom is incredibly peaceful. She looks relaxed and happy. Her sense of humor has not diminished in the least, and she's regularly making us laugh, often by gently poking fun at us. She looks beautiful, almost with a glow.
My friend has been at the death of a few people, and she said she's never seen someone look so peaceful.
Even as she gets more confused, and we get less able to sort out what she's saying to us, she's not perturbed by it. She'll say something we can't figure out, she will realize it, and then she'll say, "I know it doesn't sound right, but it makes sense to me." So even the confusion doesn't seem to be stressing her out.
The house is full of love. Mom gives her love to everyone as they come and go - family, old colleagues, friends etc. It's contagious - so we're all sharing that feeling with each other.
There's a strong sense of family - of both our biological family and also Mom's huge extended family - that we're in this journey together - with her and with each other.
There are incredible acts of kindness every day - calls, cards, flowers, food, visit from all over the country... an old college friend of my parents is taking care of my dog in Maine... people call just when one of us needs some fortification... Drew's house in Tiki (near Galveston) is being a wonderful place for a respite... much good is coming our way.
There's fun too. In a very dramatic game, Jennifer, Andy and I taught Patricia how to play Rummy Cube. All the grandchildren bring laughs to all of us. Ruth brought their two adorable dogs over yesterday, and Mom loved seeing them. They really are too cute. Helen has enrolled the 16 month old twins in swimming class, which we started last Friday - I get to go, and get to learn how to help them get comfortable in the pool.
Visitors are bringing wonderful stories - we're learning more about Mom's work life and just how much influence she had. We kids had some idea, but not the whole story. Mom seems to love to be in the story telling sessions, smiling, and adding a detail here and there.
Colors are of primary importance to her these days. Brown was the theme for a few days. Yesterday was about white, then yellow in the evening. This morning she said she was in a purple phase. We're not sure what it's about, but somehow it makes sense for someone whose whole life has been in the visual arts.
She seems to like doing something with her hands, and continues to work on a blue scarf she's knitting. The repetition, the physicalness, the rhythm of it is still with her.
We have moments of inspiration too. Jennifer (who is nine) made Mom a "tear box" out of clay. She explained to us that it's a box so if Nana is sad, she can put a tear in it, and she will be happy. We all had to snuff back a few tears with that.
So there are many wonderful moment here. And the whole thing has been inspiring to me - Mom's being a role model yet again, showing us a graceful, peaceful, loving way to transition from this life to whatever's next.