A shaft of light settles just so on her white hair. Her eyes are unusually clear and bright. Maybe she spit out the meds this morning. Go Mom go! Her right eye reflects the sun as it shines through the window; the left is hidden in shadow.
“You look like an angel Mom,” I say, caught in her beauty and the moment. Sandy, the sweet stylist who comes to do Mom’s hair after her Friday bath, wraps a stray wisp around the curling iron, rolls it close (but not too close) to Mom’s scalp, and waits for it to set.
“I will be one soon,” Mom replies.
My eyes meet Sandy’s. It’s an instant of profound knowing that caregivers, hospice workers and those whom they serve share unexpectedly – one of those times in which there is no denying the depth of our connection with the divine. Mom knows. And she’s letting us know she knows.
While her brain and body struggle in the mid to late stages of Alzheimer’s disease, her heart, soul and spirit are ready to be set free. She rarely strings words together to form a sensible sentence anymore other than when she sings, or when there’s a break in the clouds as there has been with her reply. Often her speech is disjointed and random, a pick-up-sticks game of subjects, verbs and objects with no real meaning, except when the occasional tear in the increasingly thin veil between here and there allows something astonishing to slip through.
I’m not a religious person, not at all. But I recognize divinity when it touches down. As Sandy curls Mom’s hair on this Friday afternoon in January, 2014, I imagine an invisible-to-us angel singing in her ear:
“We’ll all come out to meet you when you come. We’ll all come out to meet you when you come. With a hug and kiss we’ll greet you, yes, we’ll all come out to meet you when you come…”
My mother knows she is in the final stages of her journey. Maybe in some ways she’s lucky. Some of us are taken suddenly, snatched without warning from this world we think belongs to us but clearly doesn’t. Death by ambush? Or a long, drawn-out siege? Either way, living fully is our duty, discovering joy is our privilege and life breaks our hearts whichever path we choose. Life is meant to be lived after all, joys and sorrows notwithstanding.
Mom still lives with gusto. Maybe that’s why she’s not quite ready to go around the mountain. But she’s getting closer to being ready. When the time is right a whole host of angels will be there to “greet her when she comes.” And she’ll sing right along with them. I’ll bet she’ll be wearing pink pyjamas. Heavens! In the meantime, we sit and talk of random things while Sandy does her hair.