Ruth, an elderly woman with white hair is wheeled out onto the green, expansive lawn of a convalescent home. Though it is mid-August, there is a yellow shawl about her shoulders. As she is pushed along, her body jostles languidly as a doll pushed in a pram
Ruth’s eyes appear open, yet sightless as no change shows upon her face to the scenery that is before her. The landscape is bordered with a large hedge and towering evergreens. In the center, sets a reflecting pond with spouting fountain. Ducks and swans glide effortlessly over the quiet water. Budding Lavender and summer roses tickle the underbelly of the air.
Beneath an umbrella, the attendant secures the wheelchair by a table, and walks away.
On a graveled circular drive fronting the entrance of the home a man is about to get out of the passenger side of a car. The driver, a woman, stops him by putting a hand on his arm. “Jeff…”
“You don’t need to say anything, Tammy.”
“I just don’t want to see you getting hurt. You heard what the doctors have said.”
“That she’s a vegetable. You know how I hate that term. She’s my mother, I can’t leave her alone. What if she can hear - feel…what kind of son would that make me?”
“It’s been months - it’s futile, just stop!”
“Futile? You think emotions, memories – love itself - all just disappear when you grow old and forgetful - that they mean nothing? What does that say about us?”
Tammy pulled back as if slapped. “I don’t mean that…I don’t know what I mean.” Tears brimmed. “Jeff, please don’t let’s fight.”
“Despite what the shell looks like, Tammy, I believe Mom is still there inside. I’ll always believe that and, God forbid, if it ever happens to you, I’d believe it then, too. I can only hope you’d feel the same for me.”
“Jeff, please…” but her words were cut off as he got out of the car.
“Just pick me up in an hour. I’ll be waiting here; I wouldn’t want to disturb your day with the unpleasantness of seeing me ‘getting hurt’ by a defenseless old woman.” He slammed the door and walked away.
A battle of faith was raging inside Jeff’s head. He’d lost his father to cancer four years ago and shortly afterward his mother slipped into dementia followed by a stroke six months ago.
Something his mother said after she was diagnosed with the dementia haunted him. “Follow your heart,” she had said, “not your mind. Your mind hides the truth, the heart uncovers it.”
Eyes stinging, Jeff found his mother and quietly approached her. He kissed her forehead. “Hey, Mom,” his voice choked as he sat beside her.
No words, no movements rejoined him. A breeze from the garden fluttered the umbrella.
He didn’t want to begin with a lie, but he did. “Tammy wanted to be here, but Bobby’s teacher needed to talk to her…about his grades.” His voice faded, tangled in its own falsehood.
He tried again. “The flowers are beautiful today. They remind me of the garden you kept back home. You remember it, Mama? Say something, Mama, please.
A gull, blown in from the coast, cried in the distance. The only sound breaking the silence. I’m not giving up on you, Mama He smiled and gently squeezed her hands. “I see you have am advocate speaking for you now, so I’ll take that as a yes.”
It has been said that the air contains the biography of the ages. Nothing is ever lost – nothing ever forgotten. Riding in its winds are the very first words ever uttered by God. Memories are borne there, too; lifted on the senses of hearing, sight, touch, smell and taste. Yet overriding it all, God tells us “Timshel” – Even in battling uncertainties, “Thou mayest.”
A movement in the garden causes Jeff to look up. It is his wife. Compunction shadows her face and she’s holding a rose plucked from one of the bushes. Timorously, she meets her husband’s eyes and moves to kneel beside her mother-in-law. “God said to give you this, Mom” she whispers. She places the rose in Ruth's hand.
Ruth’s fingers caress and lift the flower to her nose. Her face becomes that of a child. And, for but a fleeting moment, a light comes into her eyes and a smile is upon her lips.
Hearts choosing wisely – the moment chronicled in the air. Truth revealed - a victory shared.
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