Friday, May 11, 2007

My Last Farewell with my Mom

As we all know, this Sunday is a special day – we get to celebrate (and if possible, “spoil”) our mothers. For me and my brother, however, we will probably do what we have done for the past seven years – amid good-hearted laughter and reverence, celebrate our Mom in our own spiritual way.

In my latest pop-psych book, Mom and Dad’s Pearls of Wisdom... You Gotta Love 'Em, I share with the reader my last farewells with both of my now-deceased parents. In honor of my Mom, Rose C. Emener (1921-1999), I herewith want to share that “Last Farewell” with my mother with you.

* * * * * * * * * *

My Mom—February 1999

Valentine’s Day 1999 happened to fall on a Sunday. At three o’clock that afternoon, in room 216 of the Pasadena Manor Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in small-town Florida, my mother was an hour away from being given Roxanol, the last resort in alleviating the total, tumultuous torment inflicted by the cancer in her lungs. The biological war had been decided, yet the moment-to-moment battles of breathing painlessly were still being waged. I knew that with the Roxanol would come the long-anticipated respite she so deserved. But I also knew that the drug would bring a loss of cognitive acuity. Looking at my mom, I could clearly see she was enervated from a busy day and wanted sleep, yet I selfishly indulged in one more goodbye. We all knew time was scarce, so Jenny, my second wife, gave Mom a tear-soaked hug and thoughtfully left the room to allow me time alone with my mother. Those final five minutes summed up the essence of a lifetime.

The frail, decaying body before me, awkwardly wrapped in years of hard-knocks skin, could not mask my real Mom. For those precious moments, the jewels in her head and heart shined brighter than the morning sun. Bending down and meeting her face-to-face, I told her that I had two things to say to her. With a childish smirk, she said, “Make it quick.” When she winked at me, I knew we were connected.

“First,” I said, “Mom, I want to thank you for teaching me how to be a caring, responsible, and loving man.”

“It was easy,” Mom shot back.

What a compliment, I genuinely thought, yet when I looked at the grin on her face, I laughed with her through my tears.

I went on. “The second thing I want to thank you for is having had the guts to make sure I learned those things.”

With overwhelming perceptiveness, Mom looked right through me and said, “That was the hard part.”

“Mom, thanks to you I know what love is. I love you.”

She placed her quivering hand on my face and whispered, “You’re a deep man, Bill. I’m proud of you.”

Crying on the outside, on the inside I knew my mother understood the real me, through and through. She had peered inside my soul.

“Go now—take your wife to the movies,” she said.

“And what if I don’t want to go?” I protested playfully.

Feigning a stern-mother glare, she snapped comically, “Listen to your mother!” Then: “Go. I’m tired. Let me go.”

“I love you, Momma,” I whispered.

Again, she looked through me. “I know, son, and I love you too. Now go…and let me go.”

Suddenly, the meaning of her words hit me: not only was she giving me permission to go on with my life, she was also compassionately giving me permission to let her go on with hers.

I didn’t want to leave, but knew I had to muster the strength to do it. When I reached the door, Mom and I bid goodbye to each other with our affectionate two-finger “Mile-High Salute.” And I thought of Lou Gehrig: Thanks to you, Momma, today I am the luckiest man in the world.

* * * * * * * * * *

That night, Mom lapsed into a comma and died the following evening. But in my heart she's as alive as ever.

To all you wonderful moms out there: “Happy Mother’s Day!

Bill

2 comments:

Cole said...

Ok, I needed a warning on that one! Tears just before one runs out the door to meet the world is NOT good!

That was wonderful.

Cole

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Cole,
Sorry for the discomfort, but buoyed by your compliment.
She indeed was a wonderful lady... and I truly was a very fortunate man.
Thanks again,
Bill