The taut white sheets covering the hospital bed were a sharp contrast to my mother’s frail, loose-skinned arms. Life-giving fluids dripped into her veins, and one soft mound on her chest was visible beneath the warmed blanket. Lights flashed on mysterious machines above her head, casting eerie shadows on the walls.
“How much longer, do you think?” she asked—again.
“It’ll be soon,” I said, glancing at the round-faced clock on the wall—again.
The only sound in the tiny room was the humming of the bedside machines. Her eyes were closed, but I noticed a smile spread across her lips.
“What are you thinking?” I asked.
“Do you remember the day you gave Annie the dress I was making for you?” she chuckled. “And it wasn’t even finished!”
I smiled, too. I’d heard the story many times, but each time she told it as if it were the first. To Mom, it was as if the incident had happened moments ago instead of the 40 years that had passed.
“You were standing on a dining-room chair as I pinned the hem of the dress. You’d stand on one foot, then the other. I’d wait while you scratched your leg. You were thirsty, then there were trips to the bathroom. It was like raking leaves into the wind.
“Annie was sitting cross-legged on the floor, watching. ‘That’s the prettiest dress ever,’ she sighed. Without hesitation, you said, ‘Annie, you can have it.’”
“Mom, it wasn’t that I didn’t like the dress. I felt sorry for Annie. She never had anything new to wear.”
Annie and I had been best friends, always together. Our dads were farmers, depending on the weather, harvesting and crop prices to pay the bills. In our home, we were a family of four, but it seemed Annie had a new baby sister or brother every other year.
But Annie didn’t take my new dress home. Instead, Mom made one just like it for her. We’d wear them to school on the same day and tell everyone we were twins—Annie with her long, strawberry-blonde braids and me with short, chestnut curls.
“Do you remember the wide hem I’d sew in your dresses? As you got taller I’d let it out, and when there wasn’t any hem left, I’d sew lace on the bottom.”
“That’s when I liked the dresses best,” I said. “I loved the frilly lace all along the edge.”
Eyes still closed, her smile turned into a laugh. “Do you remember the black bathing suit you bought for your senior trip?”
I laughed, too. “I still haven’t forgiven you for that!”
I’d modeled the one-piece bathing suit for her inspection, and she’d declared that the French-cut legs showed too much skin.
When I frowned, she said, “Don’t worry, honey, we can fix that.” And she did. She handstitched black lace around the French-cut legs.
“I came home from the beach crying that George Whitmore said my underwear was showing!”
“Honey, George had a crush on you starting in third grade.”
We both laughed.
“Can I join the party?” The nurse, dressed in scrubs, smiled as she entered the room. “You’re next, Ms. Grace.” With a syringe, she added medication to the IV, and then covered Mom’s thin, gray hair with an elastic band cap.
Wheeling Mom’s bed down the hall toward the operating room, the clacking of the wheels matched the beats of my heart.
“Wait a moment,” I said.
When I bent down to kiss my mother’s forehead, I couldn’t stop my tears from falling to her cheek.
“Please don’t cry, or I will, too,” she said. “Honey, nothing happens to us that God doesn’t know. And here’s more good news—I’ll never have to have another mastectomy!”
Blotting my eyes with the back of my hand, I couldn’t help but smile with her.
This is dedicated to my mother, a 17-year (and counting) lung- and breast-cancer survivor. From her, I first learned of His amazing grace.
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