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  • Writer's pictureLisa Cox

Timeless Healing

I woke early this morning in Mom's mostly empty apartment, and lay in on the air mattress my brother had brought me, under a quilt loaned by my mother's good friend Mary across the hall, listening to the crows, which disappeared soon, replaced by the songbirds that come out to chirp and chitter when there is no wind and thin grey layers of cloud cover the sky: chickadees, robins, finches and warblers of various kinds- and blue jays. I lay there for a good hour and a half thinking about writing. Then I got up, drank some hot coffee from the percolator and wandered out to the porch to get additional inspiration. Some small brown animal caught my eye as it slinked into the trees from the lawn below, and a chipmunk with its cheeks stuffed full of some delicious breakfast scooted under the line of cars in the parking lot. The air was still and cool.

A few nights ago in the pouring rain I stood on the porch, called by the trees, and then stepped down onto a carpet of pine needles and walked to the back of the little complex, up onto the hill, and hugged a tree. For a long time. I don't know how long, but dusk turned to dark, I walked back down the knoll and wiped my feet on the dry boards of the porch floor so I wouldn't track up the carpet my other brother had spent several days running a carpet cleaner back and forth over, in preparation for inspection before the apartment becomes someone else's.

The weather changes every day in these Maine woods. The climate changes every year in this world. My flight back to Maine, only a week after I'd arrived back in Denver later than expected because our plane was diverted around thunderstorms, was smooth.

The day after Mom's memorial, my brother, sister-in-law and I stopped in to say good-bye to Dad at the nursing home. We told him we'd see him at his birthday in October. We will be back then, and we will see him, for the last time, to put his little coffin of ashes into the ground at the family cemetery up on the ridge, just a mile or so from the house in which I grew up. Dad contracted pneumonia and decided to join Mom. He had a DNR, and his advanced directive spoke clearly, as well as his children, to let the medical attendants know that he did not want to be kept alive with medications, tubes or any other interventions. He chose to stop eating, and he died peacefully in a private room the nursing home had provided on his last night.

The hospice nurse told me she had asked Dad if he were going somewhere, that he didn't look great. Yes, he said. He didn't know where, but his wife was there. My parents were divorced two decades ago, but in the last 3 years, after Dad had his second major stroke and needed regular care in his own apartment, my mom stepped in to be that caregiver. I could not be there every month, so she was there in the intervening months. They rekindled their love and friendship. While Dad would look askance at the spinach and eggs I cooked, he loved her American chop suey, beef stew, pretty much anything Mom made for him. And after he moved into the nursing home, she visited often, bringing him meals on occasion too, until the last few months over the winter when she had no car and was too ill to do much of anything outside her own home.

As I lay in that squishy bed listening to the birds, I recounted various events from the course of my life, then I gave thanks to greet the day, with the new words of gratitude I issue: "Thank you, Mom and Dad, for giving me this life." When I get up in the morning, I move on with the day in honor of my parents, who gave me this opportunity to live in this world, to commune with nature, to serve humanity, and to live every moment for its own special quality, because time is timeless, and healing comes with every breath.

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