I am grateful for mothers, for my mother. I am at her bedside now, flew across the country from Nova Scotia to British Columbia to be with her, to say good-bye as she sheds the burden of Alzheimer’s and is finally free, truly free. There is very little of her left, she is almost childlike in her bed, morphine keeping her comfortable while she slips away.
My sister and I are here, sleeping in recliners on either side of my mother’s bed. We played gentle music for her last evening, in the dark, both of us quiet. We shared our favourite Mom Moments, from our childhood. The going to the side of her bed, chased there by a nightmare and before we could touch her she wakened, ready to ward off the scary things. She knew how to get rid of nightmares, of fevers, of aching legs from growing pains, she knew brown sugar on toast solved most, if not all, ills. She was the best nurse ever. We remembered picnics in the plum trees, about thirty steps from our back door, on a hot summer day, complete with a red gingham tablecloth and a washtub to cool off in. She made perfect lunches for the drive to Winnipeg to visit her family, lunches with chicken sandwiches and dill pickles and chocolate chip cookies, a lunch we were digging into before we were an hour down the road.
The thing about my mother that I most admire is she lived her life positively, she didn’t give in to self-pity and faced whatever life hurled at her with courageous acceptance, without any “why me”. She took the full brunt of loss, was knocked down and got back up, dusted herself off and strode forward. She lived in the moment.
My favourite image of her is at the piano head thrown back in song, her fingers dancing across the keys as if her fingers were hard-wired independently to know where exactly to. The piano and her red shoes. Oh, how she loved red shoes.
I will miss her. No matter our age, we have days when we want our mother, we want her to come and make everything better. I will still call out for my mother, on days when life weighs me down, but I will be glad of her freedom, glad she is rid of this cruel disease, glad she is free of her aged body.
So for now, I will smooth her hair back, place my face against hers, run my fingers along her arm and I will whisper in her ear. Fly, Mom. Fly home.