The following is the first in a series of stories I will tell for other people, because I am realizing more and more that people want their stories to be heard....and I want to write!
Susan sits at the side of her mother’s bed. It is just the two of them and it is quiet except for the hum of their breath.
She looks down, reading from a text about trusting your gut, about the vibrations your body can pick up and hold onto, about that deep, deep down place inside that begs all the time for us to listen. It tries to tell us, but many don’t want to hear. Many don’t want to, but she does. She wants to hear and her mother has always wanted to hear too and so they listen. That’s how they first knew about this. That’s how they first knew.
She stirs then. Her mother stirs and Susan goes to her, picks up a glass of water with a straw in it and holds it to her mother’s lips and her mother takes a sip so small it is almost not even a sip. That’s how all of her movements are now, so small they are almost not even.
She moves around the bed then, moves with the grace of a caregiver, the grace of what was always her mother’s role, but now is hers, and she is surprised and burdened and honored to know that she has it. She has the grace, even if she never wanted it, because there is no one else who could do this. There is no one else who could take care of a mother the way a daughter can and though she is consumed by sadness, she knows something too. She knows something that taps on her heart and speaks so softly that she has to lean in to hear. She has to lean in and be so quiet, very quiet. She has to be very quiet so that she can hear the whisper that comes from deep, deep down, that place inside that she and her mother know about, that begs all the time for us to listen, that they listen to. It says, “Sadness is everywhere. It is everywhere.”
She feels the tears now, but she moves away from them, won’t let them fall until the ride home, closed off in the car like a secret chamber for her pain. Instead, she goes to her phone on the night stand and scrolls through the list of classical music her mother loves, finds the Italian song and presses play as she hears that whisper again, the one that says that sadness is everywhere, and she knows that it is. She knows that she is not alone, that there are more people at the sides of their mothers’ beds.
The orchestra starts to float gently into the room then, rising from the fancy Bose speaker her husband got her for Christmas, the husband who is home taking care of their two children so that she can be here, taking care of her mother, and it is awful and wonderful that she isn’t alone because sadness is everywhere, a collective spirit of pain and comfort. It is awful and wonderful.
The Italian words of the Opera her mother loves fill the room. They sing about a beloved father and Susan thinks of her own father and how she is taking care of him too and of how she would have thought that she’d be more selfish than this, that she wouldn't have it in her to do whatever it takes, to do anything, be anywhere. She thought that was her mother’s trait, but sees now that it was passed down. It was passed down to her and she will lose sleep and energy and joy and time, but she will not lose this woman. She will not.
The song ends then and Susan sits at the side of her mother’s bed. It is just the two of them and it is quiet except for the hum of their breath.