She beamed at me when I walked into the room. “This is so exciting!” she proclaimed, and throwing her blankets back, she continued, “We have much to do to get ready for the baby. Where shall we start?” My 89 year old mother was in her final days of life, in hospice care. She was bedridden and most days she did not recognize us. Although confused and weak, she was always happy when someone stopped in and always thanked them. Clearly on this day, she had merged the news of the baby her grandson and his wife were expecting and her great grandson turning one with my visit, thinking that this baby was mine. Flattered she considered me of childbearing age, I settled her back into her bed and suggested maybe we make something for Baby. That appeased her. I began to search the room for craft supplies.
All I could turn up was blank notecards and a pen. This pleased her. She decided she would write cards. I sat by her bedside as she began. “What are their names?” she asked of my niece, her husband and baby. I told her and she began to write. “Dear Rachel and Andrew, Congratagrations! I am wo to to snuggle. We can We can can have and enjoy.” Lower on the card, she wrote to her great grandson, “My very Dearrest Kye (to me…”How do they spell his name?” I told her, but she still spelled it her way). You oma! This tom I can hard wait to s.” She was pleased with her efforts. Both of us career teachers, I marveled at her command and generalization of sight words. I admired her go at more difficult words. I felt her struggle to articulate what she wanted to say.
My 19 year old daughter called then and we talked about school over speaker phone. When we hung up, my mom insisted on writing to her. “Gill is already reading on his don math! I am I am a I can hold squeezya. Love Grandma (“What do they call me? she asked). See you soon.” The exclamation points! Amazing that she knew these sentences needed emphasis!
It had been 25 minutes, longer than she had attended to anything in months. She was sitting up, too, alert and holding her head up, something she hadn’t been doing for weeks now. “Who next?” she asked me. I told her it was her son’s birthday today. My brother was turning 59. That thrilled her. Another card. This time, “Dear Keith, I so so so special havivving boys. I can’t I can’t heai to hug you both. Love you!! Grandma Hope Ho to Love you, Love you, Grandma!!” Then she drew a heart. My mother never drew hearts on our cards, never X’s and O’s. She wasn’t that kind of Mom! Who were the boys she referred to? Both my brothers? My brother and his son? I wasn’t sure.
Pleased with herself, my mom relaxed back into her bed and closed her eyes. Soon she was asleep. I took a picture of the birthday card and sent it to my brother. “Best birthday present ever!” he wrote back. I took a picture of Gillian’s card and sent it to her. She was touched. Writing had enlivened my mom, temporarily wired her brain for memory again, inspired her to reach out, to connect, to show her love. Her recipients were moved.
The final card was delivered the following weekend when I attended my grand nephew’s first birthday. I had hit traffic on my journey and almost all the gifts had been opened when I arrived. I added mine to the dwindling pile and Kai seemed happy with his Sit n Spin. Then Rachel opened the card from her grandmother. As she began to read, her eyes brimmed, then filled, with tears. They began to flow as she finished the card. She covered her mouth. I went to her and we hugged. My mom would die before the week was out. But right then, Rachel felt her grandmother’s love, knew the effort it took to convey this simple, garbled message. My mother had written her heart. It was one of her final gifts to those lucky card holders. The Power of Writing is that it is a gift. To ourselves and those we share it with.
Photo: Bridgewater, NJ. 9.14.22 by LA
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