family

When Parents Age

 

You see them in their fading days and years, in a state of grace that seems impossible to approach.

They are frail, yet stronger than ever in spirit.

They stumble, yet are resolute; unsure but trusting; in pain but serene; silent, mostly, yet smiling; enduring, patient, resting, sleeping, taking a few steps, a few spoonfuls.

Mum sleeps, but reads mostly. Her prayer books are nearby, as is her Kindle and her iPad; her e-books and sudoku. The rosary’s blue beads, on her bedside table, gleam in the afternoon light. The merayas outside her bedroom nod and toss in the morning breeze; the chocolate labrador lies patient and hopeful outside her door when coffee comes and Sienna gently takes her share of the biscuit from Mum’s fingers. Gives her the gentlest of a grateful lick.

She counts her steps outside in the garden every morning, in laps and minutes; yesterday ten, today fifteen; she is growing stronger. Mum’s skin is soft and radiant, almost as luminous as her spirit. I am content, she says, and there is no better gift she can offer me.

Needles, pricks, IV’s, drips, probes, tablets, oxygen and nebulizers; wheezing, trembling, falling, stumbling; thermometers, lists, alcohol swabs, tubes, tests and x-rays; insulin and sugar readings, pulse, pressure and respiratory counts; assistance to walk, dress, eat, turn over, straighten the body. She has surpassed all this these past weeks, summoning an inner strength, a clarity of focus, the steadfastness of prayer. Holding fast, holding on.

Once a mother, always a mother. Showing the way, leading by example.

Now, she wears her years elegantly, with serenity. Approaching eighty, and a life lived on her own terms. She is lambent with the light from within.

Ma, I love you.