Sunday, October 4, 2009

Theresa Dressman

Her wrinkled eye lids flicker against the warm light flowing in through the window. Muffled voices surround her. She cranes her neck in each direction hoping to pick up a part of their conversations. There is a soft glaze over her eyes that makes us think she can't hear, that she's near sleep, that her hearing is nearly gone. But just as these thoughts cross my mind, she perks up and we meet eyes. Her old now unflinching eyes stare at me with unfamiliarity. I now hear the muffled voices. The others stop and stare, as if expecting her to spout out her feelings about the illness. She says nothing and slowly closes her weary eyes. Her tumor-ridden stomach rises and falls with each exhausting congested breath. Her fingers flinch when she exhales. The hands which once held me as a small child are frail branches entwined across her chest.

Each time she turns to me I smile. She looks through me at the head of the rocking chair. I'm not ever sure if she see's me or not. I remind myself that she's not in pain as she used to be. She is merely living out the last stages of her life. I can only pray she is sent comfort and peace as her frail body attempts to hold in her untamable spirit...The same big-hearted spirit she always had in cooking elaborate holiday dinners for a family of more than 70, for raising 12 children through half a century, for always remembering my birthday even as I was one of 50-so grandchildren. They continue to talk and she continues to slip in and out of sleep.

"For the kingdom and the power and the glory are Yours now and forever. Amen," escapes from her lips. And I sigh a heavy sigh. We all turn and stare at her clenched eyes, closed, basking against the warm light from the window as she licks her lips and a feeling of yearning falls across her face. She mumbles more prayers. We are silent. Saying our own internal prayers while absorbing her presence.

My father sits, head bowed, eyes closed.
"You taking a nap?!", she says jokingly, suddenly pulling herself up in her wheelchair. A wide smile reaches across my father's face. For a moment I see the old sparkle in her eyes.
I say my goodbyes. I bend down to hug her and she manages to bring one of her arms up to my side. An old comforting familiarity settles in as she mumbles "goodbye" into my ear.

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