February 10–Frozen in Time

I write tonight so tomorrow can be all about him.  All about what happened seven years ago.  Instead of the same night one year ago.

I write tonight because it was a Sunday, a beautiful Sunday in February that my Mama went on up to The House.  To see her dear grandmother whom she never stopped missing.  Her Aunts and others she loved.  And my Daddy, whom she had spent the previous fifteen months trying to learn to breathe without.  And she did it with love and faith and a grace that was second to none.  She was amazing.

She wants tomorrow to be all about him.  I know that.  She loved my babies, and all of her grands, more than anything in this world.   That Sunday, one year ago, when I was going leave the hospital to meet my birthday boy and the family at the park for a half hour, leaving her and Mess Cat so I could wish him a happy birthday, I went over to her bed and said quietly, “Mama, the littles and Aub are coming up here.”  She immediately looked upset and shook her head no.  “No, Mama, we’re going to go to the park for a little while.  It will be fine.  They’re not coming to the room.  I’ll tell him you said Happy Birthday, okay?”  She nodded and tried to smile.  Okay.  Okay.

I left and when I came back, I knew things weren’t right.  I could tell she wasn’t doing well, and she was no longer alert.  In just that short of a time.  The tear in my heart began breaking even more.  Noooo.  It was too soon.  And yet her body had held off as long as it could. Twenty-five days in the hospital.  Twenty-four of them in the ICU.  Less than a week’s worth of being alert and awake during that time.  Twenty-four days in the same hospital where her grandson, my baby boy Cooter, was born six years before.

Six years apart.  Same building.  So much alike.

Both February 10 mornings I was awakened very early.  In 2007, I’d wakened to the contractions and the knowledge that a baby was coming soon.

In 2013, I gave up trying to sleep after a night of dozing in and out, getting up to stand by her bed and stare at the numbers on the machine, willing her blood pressure to come back up on its own following her third emergency surgery, performed just a few hours before.  I just knew if I stood vigil, it would help.  It would make her better.

One day I had my Fella by my side, grinning and excited about what was to come.

Another he asked to go see Mama while I sat in the car with the crew in the parking garage.  I don’t know if he knew he was going in to say goodbye.  I am so glad he asked, and he got to see her one more time.

Both days were filled with numbers and nurses, blood pressure checks and beeps–oh those infernal beeps that I can still hear in my sleep.  Both days we were blessed by people who were caring and attentive and concerned about the patient.  In one room, “It’s a boy!” was called out excitedly.  In another, “It’s time,” was whispered with resignation and sadness.  Both days found me greeting people who gathered in the room.  It was only in the expressions that the difference could be seen–those coming to welcome a new life, those coming to say goodbye and let go of one they so loved.

Both days I had to sign my name.

Oh dear God.  I had to sign my name.

The weight of signing one’s name to make a new life official and legal can feel momentous and very important. But the signing of one’s name to let your Mama go.  To say it’s time.  To give permission to give her peace and rest.  My hands shook, and I had to focus through the tears.  I never wanted to do that again.

Both days there were prayers said and voices raised in sharing stories and remembering.  Both days I held the hand of the one I loved.  One who would call me Mama, and the One whom I called Mama.  Both days I tried to freeze the moment, to remember what those hands looked like.  Both days I didn’t see how I could love the one I held more than I did in that moment.

Six years apart.  The joy and the sadness.  The laughter and the tears.

After Cooter was born, the nurse stopped my bed by a button on the wall, and I pressed a button.  Lovely music played all over the hospital.  The same sound I pointed out to Mama during her HospitalStay even when she wasn’t conscious.  “Mama, a new baby!  How sweet.”  After Mama passed over, there was no sound.  Nothing to mark the moment but a nod from the doctor’s assistant whom we had known most of our lives.  That nod and the tears that flowed without halting.

After Cooter was born, the nurses cleaned him and handed him over to me and the Fella.  My heart swelled with tenderness for this new little boy, my only baby boy, and I knew my life would never be the same.  After Mama passed, my heart was breaking into a million little pieces, but it still swelled with love for her.  This beautiful woman who gave me life.   And love.  So much love.  I took a washrag and wet it, and one last time, I washed her face.  Just as I had so many times during her HospitalStay, to comfort, to bring down her fever, to say “I love you.”  One last time.  And I knew my Life.  Would Never. Be.  The Same.

Tomorrow, Mama, tomorrow I will make it about celebrating this baby boy who has brought you and Daddy and all of us so much joy.  I give thanks for his life and am happy to be his Mama.  This one who loved to listen to you read but would hop up sometimes to finish playing with the cars on the floor next to you.  This one who loved your snacks and ice cream sandwiches.  This baby boy who decided very early he wanted to go with you and Daddy and his big sister, our Princess, on those Mondays after Stevi B’s lunches.  He didn’t want to miss a moment of the fun with y’all.  Tomorrow I will celebrate and take him on an adventure and fix him what he asks for to eat, and I will bake a cake or brownies or whatever he chooses to mark the occasion.  Just like you did for us.  I will cry as I remember the little baby he was and dream of the young man he will become.  I will hang on tight as I let him go.

But tonight, tonight is for you and me.  Tonight is about the tears and the heartache and the remembering a life well lived, a race well run, and a love that is stronger than death.  I know you are still with me.  I can feel your presence, and I know your love gives me strength to breathe and go on another day.  I know because I could not do this on my own.  I never could.

Not too long after Mama passed, I heard a song that I had heard many times, but it really hit me hard for the first time last year–“Over You” written by Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert, and sung by Miranda Lambert. They wrote it in memory of Blake’s brother who died when he was young.  The beginning lyrics:

Weatherman said it’s gonna snow
By now I should be used to the cold
Mid-February shouldn’t be so scary
It was only December
I still remember the presents, the tree, you and me

But you went away
How dare you?
I miss you
They say I’ll be OK
But I’m not going to ever get over you

Two days.  Six years apart.  Both so very precious and dear to me.  Both days about the sacred and holy and thin moments of our lives.  Both shaping who I am in this very moment.  Both days tugging on my heart with their whispered stories and memories and all who shared each journey with me.  With us.

Mama, I love you and I miss you, and I’m not ever going to get over you.

But yes ma’am, tomorrow will be about him.  And I’ll remind him how loved he is.  Just as you have all these years for us.  Thank you for that.  The love.

Always, T. Annie aka Sugar Tag

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