Note: This was an unpublished draft from a little more than two years ago that I forgot was still in draft that I just discovered. It feels good to remember her. I miss her deeply.
Times like these remind me what matters and how precious and beautiful every moment is as I sit here holding the hand of the woman who gave me life. I feel full with gratitude for every breath my mother takes knowing that each time she allows life into her body I have another 5 seconds to experience her radiant and beautiful presence. She has been unconscious since Friday night. I got the call that afternoon and Aliza and I raced over from Asheville. When I saw my mother she was almost unconscious. I grabbed her hand and said everything I could. Apologizing for my distance, for what I couldn't feel, for my fears getting the better of me and express my gratitude for her being such an incredible mother. My mother. She slowly reached up with her eyes barely open and gently scratched the back of my head and softly said, "Oh sweetie". Since then, she has been predominantly unconscious with most of her life force going into the simple act of breathing. She is completing her own masterpiece as her decline has given our family a chance to reunite and reconnect with her, each other and ourselves authentically and vulnerably. Having my uncle Joe, who has not seen her in 37 years, here sharing stories of her youth, my father Dick (who died in '84), their brother Tom (who was a Green Barrett that was, among other things and missions, on the team that went in for the guys that crashed in black hawk down) and their abusive childhood has given me tremendous insight, compassion and admiration into her huge heart and magnanimous role as a single mother . . . as my mother. I see now that she was a quiet protector and teacher. She was not absent. She gave me space to fall and pick myself up. She is an incredible woman who I deeply love, have protected myself from and misunderstood for the better part of our lives together. With both of our walls down, her's from her past and mine from her, it is so easy to see her. To feel her and hear my own heart. It just beckons the question why did it take this to see her, to hear my heart again.
The hospice facility and its faculty of staff and volunteers have been incredible with generously donated amounts of food from local churches, restaurants and families of those who have passed here. The volunteers wholeheartedly offer themselves in an environment that gives us space to be. Just be. They also have a beautiful and affordable housing option (SECU house) down the street that is for families that have extended stays here. It's a godsend. A place that once you have a room it is yours until you don't need it. Yesterday we celebrated and loved on my mother. With Frank Sinatra, Barry Manilow and Barbara Streisand in the background, I gave her my first attempt at a mani/pedi while my sister did her make-up and hair. Though her eyes have been closed for days she started tearing as we took care of her. It might have been the first time she had ever fully received. Volunteers from the local first Presbyterian church came to check on her, gifting her prayers and flowers.
Then we all pulled wisdom oracle cards. I placed the deck in her hands and pulled three cards for her. I was touched by the poetry of them. The poetry of her. A woman who is all heart.
Aliza bought Mom's favorite Entenmann's chocolate donuts and cheese danish which, when placed under her nose, she inhaled deeply. We ate them in her honor as superman played on the television. A film she took us to when we were children.
Mom loved Entenmann's so much she used to hide them in her bedroom closet, under the bed and in the bathroom. It was endearing and comical.
On her pillow, above her head, rests her mother's rosary beads, who, 21 years ago, died on this day. A pink rose rests softly below her chin and photos of her late best friend Reese still sits warmly and lovingly under her hands as we continue to kiss her and talk to her from our hearts in ways we never knew we could.
In the middle of the day a Spanish guitarist named Robert Nathanson, who came to the hospice to volunteer his gifts, generously came into the room and gave her a private serenade. It brought tears to my soul and heart. My heart ached with the question, "Why had I not done this before?"
Late into the night we drank wine and played a card game where we would share an equal number of comments and stories about her life and heart as there was the number on the card we played. The one with the most stories won. My mother is an angel who has been keeping herself from the world much in the way that she hid herself in the attic to keep herself safe from her abusive father. I feel like if she felt free enough and could have done anything she would have been an actress. A place that celebrates all stories and humanity's truest expression. A place that is boundless; limited only by the imagination. A place she could have been free to feel, play and share her heart and playfully see and co-create with the hearts of others. For she has been in a cage far too long. Things with wings were never meant for such things. I wholeheartedly grieve and celebrate this moment as she finishes the last few brush strokes of her beautiful, selfless, loving masterpiece.
Thank you all for your gracious words, loving support and consistent prayers. For helping be a part of making this so special. Know that I am sharing your words with her and that She feels so loved. Perhaps like never before.
I love you Mom. And I am so proudly your son. Always and forever. Rich