Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details

In a full heart there is room

6 Comments

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Wertheim flowerbox photo: Jon Ring

Just like one of the characters in my novel, my mother had a Leap-Year birthday on February 29. As my sister and I remember her this year, I’m grateful to share a guest post from my sister that carries my mother’s voice — unmistakable to my inner ear, across years and the incomprehensible distance between this life and the next — in ways that leave my heart astonished.

It was captured at a time of unbearable loss, and unfathomable mystery, just the sort of atmospheres in which our mother knew how to accompany us.

 

Guest Post

By Tracey Edgerly Meloni

I need my mother.

I’m twelve years too late, but never have I needed her more than at this moment. Her last words to me were, “I’ll always be with you,” though I doubt either of us believed that she was being literal.

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Photo: Karen Olin Darling

This is not what I expected, this waiting for Bob, the last time I will see him in this hospital, the last time I will touch his hand, brush his lips with mine. Sometime between when a tinny voice called me in the middle of the night and when I arrived here, he was spirited away from his sterile ICU cubicle (now stripped and eerily empty) to this unknown room I am waiting to enter. The Visitation Room, they call it. Doctors, nurses, orderlies and general helpers bustle past; no one looks at me.

I am sitting in the Dead Zone, an awkward limbo to hospital personnel: the patient is no longer here, but has not yet left the building.

Don’t worry — you know they are getting him ready. And I will be with you.

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Painting, “Movement” by Diane Kirkup

Mum is here – that deliciously throaty voice, Helen Mirren meets Lauren Bacall, her Arden scent wrapping around me like her slender arms.

Yes, I do know, after years as a doctor’s wife,

I know about  “getting him ready.” Removing the tubes and wires, masking the bruises, the torn skin, the paddle burns; erasing that final image, the moment of knowing alarm, from his features. I’ve been there hundreds of times, but not with my Bob being the one readied. Definitely I am looking through the wrong end of the telescope.

Let’s go away somewhere for now – pick your happiest memory.

There were so many … let’s go with Turks and Caicos, 1987, before the Glitterati discovered it, when only one gas pump, a Club Med and the most glorious scuba diving in the hemisphere defined it. When torrid and wine-drenched afternoons were spent lying naked under the lazy ceiling fan …

thOK, enough … I am your Mum, after all, and you were a long way from married then … pick another memory.

In Venice, on the Grand Canal, in the bridal suite of the Regina-Europa, toasting Mum’s leap-year birthday at a time when no sane person goes to Venice.

Or in Cairo, having dinner at sunset on the Nile …

Or in Djibouti, where “Bombay Bob” gained fame on our 100-passenger explorer vessel for my dubious lyrics, to the tune of the old “Pretty Baby:”

“If you miss the final shuttle

Say GOODBYE, your cruise is scuttled,

In Djibouti today!”

Naked stuff there, too, yes?

483660_10151501579297641_2073824323_nThere, and everywhere.  Soul mates and best friends and … yes.

“Mrs. Meloni? You may come in now – and my condolences.”

Mum says nothing – For this, I must step forward on my own.

The room is ridiculous, chintz and lavender wallpaper and a rocking chair, as if I am welcoming him to the world, not saying goodbye.

He is clean, pink, scrubbed – no sign of the odious central line that became so infected, all evidence of his cracked chest,  ventilator, bedsores and other bodily harm hidden by an Amish quilt. Terrible music – Mantovani Mediocrity, elevator music – plays softly in the background. Tears, the unbidden, unattractive snotty-nosed kind, threaten.

No, no, no! We don’t cry for bad taste and worse music. Get everyone out of here and be alone with him – capture what you need.

I ask everyone to leave. I kiss his forehead, his earlobe, his neck. I slide off his wedding ring, knowing I will wear it on a chain around my neck, maybe forever. I marvel at his peaceful expression, so different from yesterday’s angst. I long to stroke all of him, but know that those days are over.

Never again will we lie naked together, under a lazy ceiling fan.

Some not-quite-a-nurse person hands me a plastic bag: the dead man’s stuff, no longer needed. Glasses and underwear and a book he never read about Cole Porter.

I think of his spider-quote from EB White: “and I … as spiders do, attach one single thread to you, for my returning …”

Mum

Peggy Wilson Edgerly, 29 Feb. 1920 – 4 Nov. 2000.

You’ve forgotten Antonio, she reminds me;  we both love Antonio Porchia, especially  in a full heart there is room for everything and in an empty heart there is room for nothing.”

I cock my head to one side, holding Bob’s hand gently, wondering what she will say, and if she will come back again.

She blows me away:

Man, when he does not grieve, hardly exists.

 

 A heart full of thanks to writer Tracey Edgerly Meloni

 

6 thoughts on “In a full heart there is room

  1. Oh, Phyllis—

    I am in tears as I read this beautiful, beautiful post. You have captured such love, splendor, joy and beauty! I too hear my mother’s voice so often that at times I am shocked to remember that she died a scant two and a half months ago.

    Your sister’s voice is so powerful and gifts us with so many beautiful images! This post is a testament to love and to loss, but mainly love. It is well worth the journey, and even the pain of loss at the end is a small price to pay for all that life and joy and love.

    Thank you with all my heart for this, and a joyous birthday remembrance to your dear mom.

    Jane

  2. Thank you for sharing this touching and powerful post from your sister. I lost my mom twenty-four years ago and miss her more with each passing day. Tracey’s post touched me in ways I cannot even begin to explain.

    Again thank you.

    Rick

  3. Yes

  4. This post is a beautiful gift! I am often reminded of my father, and at those times, I’m overcome with a sense of heart-rending nostalgia and profound gratitude for having had him in my life for so long. I especially feel his presence just before I give one of my book presentations where I talk about his life and my mother’s. He doesn’t so much speak to me, as live within. I realize that he has fully and enthusiastically moved on with the same sense of joyful anticipation that he lived his life. But whereas I doubt he looks back, I know the love for me remains. The memories and impressions from our departed loved ones are luminous treasures.

  5. Beautiful, heart-stirring writing runs in the family, Phyllis and Tracey! This post so deeply reminds me of my own mom and how she accompanies me wherever I go.

    She died in 1989, while I was out of the country serving in the Peace Corps. Cheri and I had visited her during her final illness. She bravely assured us she was “going to beat this”. We all knew, I think, that her way of beating it would be to bravely embrace her victorious transition to an ocean of lights. That’s exactly what she did.

    So in my version, my mom plays both roles — that of Tracey’s Bob and of Tracey’s mum. Her lifeless physicality went through the “make ready” process in my absence; but her living spirit has ever since provided me with comfort and strength. Thanks for this wondrous testimony!

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