Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Time (11/15/12)
TITLE: Ten Tender Weeks: The Countdown
By Carolyn Ancell
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10. Time stops. My brother's midnight call says it all. "Mom collapsed. She died twice on the operating table. They found advanced cancer. Only a few weeks left."
9. Time evaporates. Brad and I have been on opposite sides of the country for the past 30 years. Now we sit on opposite sides of Mom's bed in the ICU. Long-forgotten songs of childhood--sung while up to our elbows in dish soap after dinner--rise to the surface, and we sing them again, softly, making up the harmonies as we go along. Just like so long ago.
8. Time re-opens. Mom is off the ventilator! She has made it back to us, for now. She smiles. And whispers, "Bring oranges from the tree, and the juicer. The nurses have been so kind."
7. Time is redefined. "These are being the best days of my life!" says Mom. My brother and I, incredulous, ask, "Why?" "Because both my children are here with me."
6. Time is spent. Mom works, seemingly every minute, with every breath and every ounce of energy, to walk to the nursing home bathroom, holding on to the wall for support. She has been told that when she can manage the return trip, she can go home.
5. Time slows. Mom is sprung from the nursing home. Returns home to the hospital bed we have set up for her in the living room next to the sliding glass door. She can see the patio, the sun, the trees. The cat sits on her bed. The hospice worker teaches me how to give Mom a bed bath. Mom loves it when I do, and tells me that when she used to bathe me as a baby, I was "wiggly."
4. Time melts. Day morphs into night, night into day. The endless round of medications continues 24 hours. At 2 a.m. one morning, Mom cries out. Says she needs a suppository for pain. In true Mom style, she directs, "Tell your brother to hold the flashlight. You put it in."
3. Time fills with grace. I move Mom (and oxygen, and IV, and pillows) from bed to wheelchair to car, and drive us to a nearby beach. We sit in the car and watch the sun rise. Mom says, "Thank you so much." As if she is the one who has been favored.
2. Time comes to a still point. Our wheelchair journeys are closer to home now. Today, we make it to the dining room and the table overlooking Mom's garden. I make cappuccino, and put it in one of Mom's fragile flowered tea cups. She manages a few sips, noting that, "My Bird of Paradise is blooming," before asking to be taken back to bed. She sleeps, waking later to proudly announce to my brother, "I drank my cappuccino in the living room."
1. Time opens into eternity. Waking on the couch next to Mom's bed, I hear the labor in her breathing. I rouse my brother. "It's time." We sit on opposite sides of her bed, holding her hands, thanking her over and over again for her love, assuring her we will take care of each other. Her breathing quiets, and she slips away. Into timeless eternity and never-ending love.
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