On Mother’s Day
By Susanne Severeid
On this Mother’s Day, my thoughts drift back to a day almost exactly one year ago. The day my mother died. She was 93, and had suffered a massive stroke. Thankfully, we had been able to spend time with her in those last precious days; we saw her smile as we held her hand, so bruised and blackened from countless needle jabs in the ICU (“torture,” she’d called it). As I stood by her bed on that day, I was grateful to hospice for managing her pain as she slept peacefully.
Her breathing became shallower, and the hospice nurse told me her time was near. I asked if the chaplain could come say a prayer. A few minutes later, he walked into the room and asked me, “What is her religion?” I gave a small laugh in spite of the circumstances. “Well,” I said, “she was married to a Lutheran; her second husband was Jewish, and her current husband is Catholic, so I don’t think she’d much care.” He digested this, then improvised a lovely brief prayer of his own design, sending her spirit on its way, thanking her, letting her know she was loved. As he was speaking, what sounded like a loud ringtone went off somewhere in the corridor. Damn, I thought, I wish someone would answer their cell phone. But it was odd because I noticed that it was the tune of a classic, old lullaby.
After the chaplain left, I commented to the hospice nurse about it. She smiled. “During the darkest days of Covid,” she said softly, “we needed something to cheer us up. So, every time a baby is born in the hospital, they play a short refrain of that lullaby over the intercom.”
I took a deep breath, and exhaled slowly. At the very moment the chaplain was giving my mother her last rites, at the very moment she was dying, a baby was born. One life ending, another beginning.
I have an antique Tiffany-style lamp and a small wooden table that she gave me in the corner of my living room. Every evening as the sun is setting, I turn on that lamp, with its stained-glass pattern of dragonflies and flowers, and I think of her. And while there were times during my growing up and adulthood that we had our differences, that all seems so petty and unimportant. Now, I am so aware of her unceasing dedication to our family, and to my brother and I as her children. She was always there in the best way she knew how to be, and I am grateful for her love and devotion for those many years.
And on this spring day of new seasons, those memories of her bring a smile to my face, even as I feel the deep, penetrating sadness of her being gone, that I can no longer call her and hear her voice. That is the hard thing about death, isn’t it? The finality of someone being gone from this physical plane in which we exist. We so want to just hold their hand again, or be able to tell them something that went unsaid. But, we are mortal and still among the quick. And they have entered that incomprehensible world of eternity somewhere beyond.
I look out my window as I type this, and I see pink blossoms on the tree outside. They will soon give way to the verdant leaves of summer, which will give way to the auburn hues of fall. Then will come the shorter, darker days of another winter.
And the river of life flows on.