The Gift of a Moment
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:17
“Lord, help her” I prayed as I walked into the dark bedroom. She sat with her feeble body slumped in the rocking chair. Her pale face tilted to one side. Mother’s slightly parted, chalky lips dribbled saliva. Her body, once lithe and agile, was now frail and thin, even against the delicate detail of the chair. I wiped her face and she smiled. Slipping into the chair beside her, I snuggled close, inhaling the familiar scent of the skin I knew from infancy.
This physical closeness is all that remained of the mother and daughter relationship we once had. Soon after Mother’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease, her ability to communicate ceased. Within two years, dementia, a cruel thief, robbed her of the ability to learn, to imagine, and to reason. Sadly, it advanced rapidly and held her hostage—though without ransom. Our roles reversed and I became her
Like the metamorphosis of a butterfly in reverse, she lost her wings; her ability to fly, and the personal freedoms she fiercely guarded. Laughter use to resonate throughout the house, echoing her passion and delight in even the smallest things. Now, only weak cries interrupted the heartbreaking silence.
Her milk-white hands clasped a yellowed handkerchief once belonging to my father. She stared at her fingertips without blinking as they lightly traced the outline of a cursive E embroidered on its corner. Her tears seeped into the kerchief. She kissed it and drew it close.
I laid my head on her chest and closed my eyes for a moment, trying to remember her as she once was.
I am four years old and scrape a knee falling off my tricycle. I run into the house crying and call for my mother. She kneels beside me and looks at the tiny wound. She kisses the damaged spot then holds me close. I smell the familiar scent of lily of the valley on her skin.
Again, I remembered:
It’s my wedding day. We are sitting on the bed in my room as she hands me something wrapped with a freshly starched handkerchief. Inside – a string of pearls she wore on her own wedding day. I place them at my throat and lift my hair as she fastens the complicated clasp. She cups my face with her hands and gently whispers, “Guard your memories and hold them close to your heart, never let them go”. We are crying.
A stream of sunshine filled the room, bringing me back to the present, or was it? I felt the warmth of her palms under my chin. Startled, I realized that her eyes, just masked with a veil of tears, were alert and sparkling, brimming with mischief. This was real! We were together in our memories, and now sharing the moment. Our eyes met and we laughed, delighting in each other’s company.
“I love you, Mum”, I said. She squeezed my hand and smiled, and then her grip loosened. Her snowy head lifted slightly as her lips formed words without sound. Cradling her in my arms, I hummed her favorite hymn, and as I did, I thought I heard an infant cry. A tear slipped and I brushed it away as I prayed, “Lord, thank You for giving us one last chance to share our love.” God’s gift of a final moment would last a lifetime.