I woke early this morning in my mother’s bed, the pillow wet with tears. And I took two Kleenex boxes– one full and the other empty– and used one tissue after the other, until the empty box was overflowing with crinkled wads of sorrow.
And I remembered an afternoon when I was 18 and walking down Main Street in Park City with my mom, sobbing mightily as my mother handed me tissue after tissue. I wiped my constant stream of tears and blew my nose and she took those snot-filled hunks from me and stuffed my grief in her pockets. I was overwhelmed at her love for me.
My dad heard my sobs around 8 o’clock and came to join me. He too had been woken hours before by his tears. The need for quiet gone, we wailed and howled like ancient mourners– speaking of regrets and joys and our hopes for the future. Throughout the past two days my dad, sister and have gone on a round-robin of mourning– we collapse in tears one at time, hugging and comforting each other and then we surrender together, sobbing and wiping each other’s tears. We will see her again; we know this. But her death is a tragedy.
Mom gave me a wonderful greeting when I arrived Saturday evening. She lifted her head and her eyes opened wide as she smiled and tried to speak while I wept on her shoulder. Her 92 year old mother(who moved out of my parents house just 3 weeks ago) and her brother flew in just an hour after I did. Confused by my mom’s rapid decline, her brother asked question after question, puzzling over the situation. My brother-in-law pulled him into the kitchen so we could sit by my mother in quiet. But I could hear his words, “She was so strong as a young woman,” he mused, “but never the same after having children. I wonder about those shots she took when she was pregnant– the Rh negative stuff– wasn’t it experimental?”
He didn’t intend to be cruel and I don’t think the Rhogam shots caused my mom’s illness. But this morning as I ran around the San Diego Temple marveling at my young and healthy body I could feel my mom with me. And because I’ve had so many February babies, I reflected that she would have discovered her pregnancy with me in mid-June 40 years ago. And I imagined her fear of a stillborn baby and her frantic call to the doctor… I’m sure her told her of the medicine and assured her she’d have a successful pregnancy. But what if he’d said this:
“You may bear this baby and another, but you’ll contract a disease that will make you gain tremendous amounts of weight, it will steal your health before you turn gray, it will fill your liver with tumors, your hands and feet will swell and make gardening and sewing painful and finally, after 40 years– like the children of Israel in the wilderness– you will die in agonizing pain with your husband at your side and this child at your feet.”
“Oh yes, please,” she would have answered, “I’ll give my life for my children. That would be my pleasure.”