When The Phone Call Comes
When the phone call comes - the one you think about every day
and know is coming, you are never ready.
I tried to prepare myself for it - every time the
phone would ring late in the evening, I would
wonder if this would be it - the phone call
telling me of another heart attack, another
stroke, only this time the outcome would not
be as positive.
It wasn’t the phone call I was expecting on a
Tuesday morning and took all day to return,
thinking it was something trivial.
When my mom told me she had cancer, she
was very calm - she even told me she was elated
at the thought of seeing her loved ones that had
gone before; her beloved brothers and sister,
her parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends.
At almost 86 she has lost so many people she
She told me she doesn’t want to do any more invasive
tests to see where the cancer has spread, or any
treatments to prolong her life; she was tired of the fight, of trying
Besides, she has a 69%
blockage that could lead to a stroke at any time and make cancer
treatment a moot point.
She’s done. She’s ready to go. She’s giving up gracefully to what is
probably inevitable at her age.
But what about Dad? I said. I can’t imagine him without her after
all their years together.
What about all of us who want you here
longer? We thought you’d live well into your 90s and be here
so much longer. I don’t want to imagine a world without my mother
being there for me to call with the latest story of the cute thing my cats
have done, or what my kids are up to. No one laughs at the the things I
think are funny like my mom.
No one gets my weird humour like my mom.
Who will feel sorry for me when I’m sick? When bad things happen to me?
Sometimes when I am hurt I still think of phoning my mom so I can share
my pain with her. No one is as empathetic as my mom. My pain is her pain.
Who will share the pain of this life like my mother can?
My mom once told me she loves my kids more than she loves her own.
I didn’t even feel bad. I felt grateful that someone else helps
me carry the burden of loving them so much.
A few weeks ago my son sent me the song Good Mother by Jann Arden.
I listened to it and thought of the privilege of having a good mother.
Before I had children of my own, and before I
started trying to be a better person and realized how hard it is to be both a
parent, and a better person, I didn’t appreciate her as much as I wish
I would have. I thought parents were supposed to have it all figured out and be perfect.
We’re not, (though wouldn’t it be nice?)
After my first son was born, I was in awe that someone not only went through
giving birth (look around at all the people who had mothers who gave birth to them - it’s astounding!)
but all the rest of it; the sleepless nights, sickness, all of the work, the care, the worry.
It’s Thanksgiving today. Yesterday my husband cooked the turkey and all of the
trimmings (I helped a little.) My parents were there. My parents who have always been there -
56 years and counting. 5 of our 7 children (and a couple girlfriends that we adore) were there
around the table that I had decorated with some beautiful mini pumpkins of various colours and sizes, and
13 beeswax candles. The table was beautiful - I fully meant to take a bunch of pictures of the faces
I love, the beautiful food - try and immortalize the love that was in the air. That family
love that I consider holy, and all that really matters in the end. I forgot to take pictures so you’ll
have to trust me that it was beautiful, both the people and the food.
And when we went around the table to share something we were thankful for,
I shared that I was thankful for life itself, and
for one more year with my parents at my table,
my parents who will celebrate their 64th wedding
anniversary this month, and have shown me by the way they have lived their lives,
what it is to be loving,to be kind, to be generous, selfless, committed.
What it is to be there for someone.
Because the horrible truth is that one day that final phone call is going to come.
I hope I am grown up enough to stand on my own two feet and truly be for
others what my mom has been for me.
Maybe my mom is a little tired of all the years she has loved
so generously, so selflessly. Maybe she deserves a break now. A reunion with those she misses
May I have the grace to realize all that she has taught me, all she has given me. All she has
exemplified so that I could have a living example of what love looks like in a human being.
As I heard recently at a memorial when a son was sharing memories of his parent -
I had hoped the book of my mom’s life would have a few more chapters. But like any good
book, when the end comes I will know it is the perfect ending at the perfect time. And I will
be thankful that I got to be a part of such a beautiful story.