Saturday, March 26, 2016

Easter weekend

This weekend nine years ago included a visit from my parents to Columbus, Ohio - where Scott and I lived at the time. They stayed in our little Clintonville home, and we celebrated Easter together. My mom had gone through several rounds of the experimental bio chemo that we clung on to as hope for a recovery from the metasticised melanoma that had enveloped certain parts of her inner body. She was tired, her appetite, energy, and spirits all put on tilt. Hair gone.

I was pregnant with our sweet baby boy twins, and we turned to my swollen, ever-growing belly for smiles and happy anticipation.

I don't remember much about the weekend... Can't remember if we ate out or in, played board games or took walks. Mainly, I remember going to Easter service together. Again, I cannot recall if at the time I believed my mother would die. I'm guessing I was in that limbo mental place, as so many loved ones of those with cancer are... Aware that it can be over soon, hopeful that it won't, uncertain about how to plan living in the meantime...

We got seated amongst the many at worthington Presbyterian church, an absolutely beautiful sanctuary with aesthetics all around. I'm sure the sermom was dynamite, the speakers on point, the choir performance perfect. But it was when we all stood to sing as a congregation that I lost it. I don't even know the name of the song and couldn't hum it, despite what I'm certain must be its fitting and popular nature to be featured on Easter morning. Something about the trumpets. And I was standing next to my fatigued mom in her purple knit hat. And I was pregnant. And I silently wept. Drippingly, quietly sobbed. Unprepared, I had no recovery plan in place except to stand there trying to pretend that I wasn't crying while those pretty instruments and the congregation's voices carried on in happy triumph. I really did think I was quiet. I - to this day - do not believe that my mother and father, right beside me, and I know that my husband, on the other side of them, had no knowledge of the puddle of tears splatting to the tile floor below me.

But the stranger in front of me did. Out of nowhere appeared a bundle of tissues. She didn't turn. Our eyes didn't meet. They just appeared over her shoulder.

She knew. I knew she knew. She must've noticed our family as we sat down. She must've seen my mom's worn face, the absence of hair peaking from beneath her hat. She must've noticed my belly, knowing by my youth that I was a first-time mom. I knew she knew. I just did. In my imagination, she had lost someone too. Her husband? A child? A friend?

I composed myself with those tissues and the strength that her kindness gave me. And when the service ended, and we all gathered our things to turn and leave, I lipped "thank you," for fear that saying it out loud would require more tissues. And I think we two strangers embraced. Maybe I made that part up, but I seem to remember touching in a familiar, understanding way, as if she was letting me know that she understood.

I lost my mom a few weeks later.

That gesture of kindness has stayed with me. I think of that woman every Easter. And, inevitably, the trumpets every Easter bring more puddles.

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