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Sunday, December 11, 2005

Waiting

This time nine years ago I was waiting for my daughter Megan to be born. Her due date was December 2nd, but she wasn’t born until the 20th after we finally induced labor. The long, uncertain wait for her arrival was complicated by the fact that I had fractured my elbow the day before Thanksgiving. For his part, Tom was working full-time while getting his MSW, and he had several papers due in mid-December. So I had to wait, trusting that, despite my impatience for Megan to be born, the timing would all work out.

Nine years later, I sit waiting for my mother to die, which everyone seems certain will happen soon, though no one knows how soon. We are anticipating sadness rather than joy, but still the feelings and the waiting are mixed. My mother is now suffering so much that it will be a relief to see her chest stop heaving. It will be a relief to plan Megan’s birthday party, not to mention Christmas, without wondering if Mom will still need us then. It will be a relief to be home again in the evenings as the kids struggle with homework. But it will be a painful relief, like childbirth.

My mother, for her part, is also impatient. Last night after dinner she said, “Now give me my sleeping pill, turn off the light, and then hit me over the head with a hammer.” She can barely talk, but she still makes jokes like this daily.

I’m trying to remember that waiting usually has a purpose in the cosmic plan. By the time Megan was born, my arm was healed and Tom was done his papers. More importantly, I was better prepared psychologically than I would have been in early December. The timing was in fact perfect, even though the waiting had been difficult. Yesterday I thought of this as I realized I still had some unfinished business with my mother. Although we’ve said our goodbyes in various ways already, some very old anger toward my mother surfaced in me yesterday morning. It was surprising, an old issue from the past that would have been fruitless to reopen with her now. She’s too weak and just a little too confused to understand why I would raise an ancient fight. But the surfacing of my resentment gave me the chance to forgive her while she was still alive, even though I decided not to tell her about it. The conversations we did have provided the space for me to feel some healing with her, for which I’m grateful.

Having done my little piece of spiritual work, I half expected her to die last night, but alas I still can’t predict the cosmic plan. Unlike pregnancy, where passively waiting becomes dangerous to the baby after awhile, there’s nothing we can do now but wait and pray and appreciate life while it’s here. It’s not impossible that we could still be waiting during Megan’s birthday party, or even during Christmas, though for my mother’s sake, I hope we’re not. Still, the coming of Christmas reminds me of Mary, that great patient waiter, who trusted in God’s plan at both ends of her son’s life. As it did nine years ago, Advent means much more this year than holiday sales and the television airing of It’s a Wonderful Life, which by the way, it is.

3 Comments:

Blogger Jennifer said...

I pop in here every so often for your calm, honest entries. I hope your wait ends soon for your mother's sake as well, and I wish you peace and comfort when the end comes.

3:10 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

I truly don't want to sound dumb in saying this, but you are so inspiring. Your an inspiration for those in times of crisis, that you can take time pause and reflect. May the peace of God be with you and your mother.

3:12 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

It seems so fitting that the Solstice is approaching. Many blessings and much peace to you and your family during this time of quiet introspection and of waiting.

3:56 PM  

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