I lean in and kiss the top of her salt and pepper head. She is so petite, so beautiful. Age agrees with her. She will protest such a comment but I tell her anyway. “You are so beautiful my dear sweet Mimi.” She shrugs and laughs and disagrees but I see her smile as she leans in for another hug. These arms feel like home. They are the arms that raised my mommy. They held my tiny newborn body and rocked me under the Arizona stars while she sang sweet lullabies. They’ve now held my babies too, and rocked them to the same sweet lullabies. These arms are tired now, weaker, but still full of love for me. Full of love for me even when for a brief second she looks at me as though she is looking through me, not really seeing me or seeing me but not quite sure of who I am. I hug her and don’t want to let go. Maybe if I hug her hard enough, long enough I will squeeze the memories back into her. I squeeze her tightly until she pulls away and I am breaking and breathless.
Breathless…not in that oh-my-stars-so-beautiful-it-takes-my-breath-away kind of way. Breathless because every last molecule of life-sustaining air is emptied from my lungs. The present moment ripped away from my perception. Heartsick. Frozen. In a blink I am back in that place. The place-less space where moments pass and time ticks by and yet my mind, my soul are helplessly unaware, heedless of the when and where and who is speaking. Voices sound. Words are spoken. “Moderate to severe.” “One good year left.” “You and the babies bring out the best in her.” “Not much left.” Some part of me hears them. They are trying to get in, to worm their way down to that soul level where they can make their mark, deep digging marks that wound and deliver another message of pain, of suffering, of loss impending. I HATE this place. My soul knows…this place will hurt and rip and tear and bend my inmost being. This place begs me to open the door to doubt, to allow suffering to callous the precious softness that God has been molding and shaping in my heart. This is the sooty visceral place of the breaking point.
Not wanting these dear loved ones to have the added pain of the weight of another broken heart, I am choking on the inside, hiding tears and truth and anger behind a furrowed brow and slightly upturned smile. They know. We all know, but we silently agree that the emotions of the moment will remain inside. Not one us can handle this new heaviness. The heaviness of Papa’s death is still thick upon our hearts and minds. We are still journeying through the sacred suffering, sorrow that is weaving with hope into a sacred healing. We still ache as we share stories, memories of that amazing man. Our stories, our memories connect us and bind our pain and bring us together in the healing. We cling to him in this way and ache and long to see him again in heaven. But now, his precious wife of over fifty years, she is unable to cling. She tries and struggles and we watch and wait while her words don’t come. She just repeats over and over again, “He sure did love all you kids.”
I do not feel ready for this. Grieving, mourning, breaking, mending; the cycle is starting again. As we approach the door she waves goodbye and says matter of factly, “I hope I see you again, but I may not.” I am not ready for this. I pray one word, “Jesus.” I steal another hug and kiss and with fierceness and unending love I almost growl at her, “I LOVE YOU! Do you know that? I LOVE YOU!” I am not ready for this. I will never be ready for this. But… He is. I don’t how we’ll make it through. But…He does. He has gone before me. He is going before her. He is going before each of us. And He is here now with me. He is with us in the muck and ick and grief and ache, in our breathless moments. He is right here with me in this breaking place and He will not leave me here. He will bring me through. He will bring us through.