Waiting

I am live blogging from North Carolina where we are waiting … for what?

My mother is gravely ill with cancer and a broken rib. I think we’re very close to the end now. My brother Allen called me early Friday morning and said, “If you want to see Mom, you had better come sooner rather than later.” My brother Bill and I arrived Saturday afternoon. All of my other brothers and sisters and their respective spouses are here too.

Mom is shockingly pale and frail–downright gaunt, with sunken eyes. She needs help to roll over, and barely has the energy to talk when she’s awake. When I arrived, she was dozing in a new recliner chair because it’s difficult for her to lie completely flat in bed and be comfortable. Allen has engaged a nurse’s assistant to sit with her during the late night and early morning so that he and his wife Nita can get some sleep. They are exhausted. During the night, the nurse’s assistant moved Mom to the bed, and she’s been resting there intermittently ever since. We’ve been taking turns visiting her and tending to her needs as best we can.

I have never seen Christlike love in action so powerfully as I have in the last 24 hours or so. My brothers and sisters have to give Mom water from a sippy cup, and when she feels like eating, we spoon feed her cream of wheat, pureed peaches, and the occasional cup of chicken broth. They do it with such incredible tenderness! It’s a small–wholly inadequate–way we can say thank you for the millions of times Mom cared for us with equal tenderness over the years when we were sick.

Yet even the in-laws and the newest members of our family that don’t have that long history with Mom recognize what an extraordinary woman she is and love her for it. Yesterday, Mom was complaining of itchy and dry skin. My sister-in-law Carla, the newest member of our family, gently and tenderly rubbed on some lotion so that Mom could feel better. I was so touched by that! I sat and quietly said the Rosary while she slept earlier this afternoon. There is little I can do physically for Mom because of my disability, and it makes me feel guilty, but she told me she’s glad I’m here.

Even though she’s so ill, she’s still Mom, with a wry sense of humor and a never-ending concern for her kids. A couple of nights ago the nurse’s assistant recognized that Mom needed a catheter and demanded that a nurse come out in the wee hours of the morning to put one in. We started talking about how important it is to demand what you need when you’re sick. I said, “You don’t get extra points for being a hero.” She said, “You don’t even get extra points for being polite.” She could still give a lopsided smile when somebody told a joke.

As if all of this situation with Mom weren’t bad enough, I’ve been hobbled for the past couple of weeks by a nasty intestinal something-or-other. Yesterday, I was feeling particularly vile. The first words she said to me today were a question about how I was doing. When I told her I was feeling better, she said, “I’m so glad.” She worries about her daughter-in-law Nita, who worries about her. Always a Mom!

We are simply waiting for whatever happens next.

Mary, help of Christians and help of the sick, pray for us.

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