I am posting this for my 2nd floor celebration (200 days) without Copenhagen on October 16, 2020. The events described occurred on my quit days-193 for tobacco and 115 for alcohol. Grief from the loss of a loved one can be the fuel to re-ignite an addict’s desire for fallacious friends called tobacco, alcohol, drugs, pornography, food, social media, etc. If this reflection can help one person remain steadfast in their quit, it is of value. KTC (KilltheCan.org) and all those involved in my quit have been, and remain, the gold ribbon of ore deep inside the mountain.
I answered another phone call from yet another doctor around 4 in the afternoon. The bright side of the interruptions was that I could answer the questions about my mom’s status from an upright position. I had been picking up walnuts in the backyard before cutting the grass, so I listened and stretched a bit while they spoke. Mom was in the hospital after falling at the nursing home. She had seven broken ribs and a broken vertebra in her neck. When I saw her Thursday, she had a collar on her neck which restricted her movement and a feeding tube through her nose because chewing food was impossible. I told the last doctor I would be there to see her on Saturday. One doctor was a resident in training with a palliative care doctor. Another was a kidney doctor. And finally, a hospitalist called who had seen my mom several months before. Neither of us could recall the reason for her need of his services then. Mom saw to it that every sort of generalist and many specialists in several hospitals had an opportunity to mull and mine the complexities of her shopping list of maladies…like father, like daughter.
I reservedly hung up after the last call and resumed the black walnut boogie. The phone stopped ringing, so I laid my electronic leash on the kitchen counter, shoved the twisted foam spears in my ears and cut the grass. Rain was forecast for Saturday, but it began to sprinkle on me, gumming the chute with cut, mulched, and re-mulched grass bits. I thought about Mom all around the yard. She loved the sound of rain and the smell of it in the air. When it rained, she mobilized for house cleaning, cooking, and clothes washing. She would have laughed and laughed at my choking Craftsman.
Caring for the elderly and the infirm can be challenging. Now that I have typed the biggest understatement of this early fall season, let me elaborate and clarify some things. It is a privilege to care for those in need. More precisely, it is a blessing to those who care. Matthew 25:40 says, “…Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even to the least of them, you did it to Me” -NASB. I always kept that in mind when my mom was calling me for the umpteenth time for the simple and the not-so-simple requests. One memorable time we were out of town and she called to say she had fallen. She had crawled to the phone and couldn’t get the landlord who lived nearby to answer the phone for help. The truth was, she couldn’t figure out how to dial him on her cell phone. Some more truth is that I didn’t always act charitably towards her or remember Jesus’ words from Matthew. Sometimes I acted as if she was a particular burden to me and I wanted a break. Before you inspect my scalp to see where the horns are breaking through, I submit that perhaps even Mother Theresa had moments of difficulty, however brief and fleeting.
I repeat. Old folks are challenging. So are the chronically infirm, the mentally challenged, the disenfranchised, the immigrant, and the unexpected gift of a growing baby in the womb. All of them deserve our help when they need to breathe a first, next, or a last breath of air. In a hierarchy of goods, they deserve help before we deserve our nap, our cheesecake, or our Netflix. I marvel over the need to remind anyone that the inalienable rights of the weak and the poor rise to the level of import with our own.
My wife took a call from the hospitalist doctor, Friday afternoon, while I was cutting the grass. He said Mom passed around 4:40. Her soul might have drifted up from her body, outside of room 5379, drawn over to my yard where the rain was still drizzling. Maybe she hovered around through the weekend because it continued raining Saturday and Sunday. I think she may have helped shake branches of the largest walnut tree on her ascent. The green cannon balls peppered the metal roof of my shed. This morning my yard is covered with walnuts as if I hadn’t even touched it on Friday. Mom reminds me on her journey that the spinning world doesn’t slow down when a mortal life ends. The seeds of life fall and sprout again and they absorb nourishment from those who have gone before.
I needed to write some things down today. I know Mom would enjoy reading it while she and her sister enjoyed a medium Coke with lots of ice and two-for-99 cent, Jack-in-the-Box tacos. Her dad would be there too, reflecting with Saint Peter on diesel engine coolant temperatures in Caterpillar versus John Deere excavators during the summer construction of a West Texas oil field access road. So many wonderful family and friends are there too…and Jesus, my Jesus is there. Mom has all her toes again. A vascular doctor removed several of them a few weeks ago. But if you’re gonna dance with Jesus, you’ve got to have a fiddle in the band, and all ten toes.