From Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul

Remembering Will Have to Do

And when one of us is gone

and one of us is left to carry on,

then remembering will have to do,

our memories alone will get us through.

Think about the days of me and you.

You and me against the world.

The lyrics to this song kept turning over in my mind like a record that wouldn’t stop. I got off the chair and walked to the window. It was near dawn and lights were being turned on. A new day was beginning. All around me life was going on. But in this room, life was coming to an end.

With the exception of the faint beeping sound of a nutrition pump, it was quiet. I walked over to the bed and straightened the blanket that covered the tiny, fragile body. I smoothed the silver-gray hair that was once so neatly combed. I could see life slipping away, but there was nothing I could do to hold it.

I heard someone enter the room. The shift was changing and the day nurses were arriving. Daylight broke and sunlight trickled through the window. We had made it through the night. But what would this day bring?

I stared at the person who’d had more influence on me than anyone else in my life. There was so much I wanted to say to her, things that I never said but took for granted that she knew. Somehow she always knew. But right now I needed to be sure.

I felt confused. When had I gone from being taken care of to the one who is now the caretaker? It had happened so smoothly that I was totally unaware. This was the woman who had raised three children alone because she was widowed at a very young age. This was the woman who’d taught me that I was capable of doing whatever I set my mind to. She had shared my laughter and had cried my tears. She was as solid as a rock. She had always been there for me. Now it was my turn to be there for her.

Tears formed in my eyes as I looked at the freshly dressed bandages on her arms. Her eyes opened and she smiled at me. Oh, her eyes. I’ve seen that look in my children’s eyes a hundred times, the look that says, “I’m scared, please don’t let anyone hurt me.” A lump formed in my throat. I was on the verge of breaking down, but I knew I had to be strong.

She closed her eyes and slept. I walked over to the chair and sat down. I needed to regain my composure. I was so focused on myself that I failed to see her breathing had changed. It had become slower and more shallow. I ran to find a nurse, only to have her confirm what I already knew.

I stood at the bedside and held the hand that once held mine. Her breathing grew faint. I held on tightly. I was not ready to let her go.

Very slowly my mother opened her eyes. She looked up at me with a smile, whispered, “I love you,” and with this took her last breath.

I stood there for some time, unable to move. I felt so alone. With tears rolling down my face, I needed her to hold me, to make things better the way she always had. “She’s just sleeping,” I told myself, but I knew better. The beautiful face that had always tried to hide the pain was now very peaceful.

It was over. There was nothing more I could do. When I left the room and walked down the hall, life was going on as usual. Once again the same lyrics played in my mind.

. . . then remembering will have to do,

our memories alone will get us through.

Think about the days of me and you.

You and me against the world.

“I love you, Mom.”

Somehow I’m sure she knew.

Victoria A. Lapikas

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