Sunday, May 9, 2010

Shine On and On

Revlon 720, Fire and Ice. My mom wore this warm, bold red lipstick every day for the last several years of her life.

Some flavor of dementia erased mom’s memory, replacing her practical, everyday self with a woman who beamed a lovely bright red smile toward her daughter, a stranger now. The smile asked, “Do you have any children?” (No children by choice, as we first discussed years and years ago.) “And, dear, how long have you been married to that man?” (10+ years.)

It was heart breaking, yet endearing.

Near the end of her life, Tessie was diagnosed with lung cancer, which rapidly spread to her brain and beyond. Thankfully, she would forget that she was a cancer patient. The pain was ever present, though, an ongoing reminder to the rest of us.

Mom had moments of lucidity, despite her Alzheimer's. I am grateful to have been fully present with my mom for three of her final five days of her life. I am grateful to have bathed and dressed her, as well as witness her refusal of food for the final time. And, I am grateful for the space to tell her again and again how much I loved her.

Our last bedside exchange, before the morphine mercifully dulled the pain, provides comfort. I stepped to her bedside, smiling, “Good morning, mom.”

She looked at me with what seemed to be full awareness, layered with awe. “Oh, hi ! You're a shiny, shiny lady,” she exclaimed before slipping back into the dulled pain and confusion.

What did she see? A celestial, end-of-life being? Her guardian angel? My aura?

I consider her pronouncement as a blessing and final gift. The blessing of radiance. Along with the vibrant Revlon 720, a gift Tessie’s daughters and granddaughters wore during her final good bye.

Rest peacefully my dearest, beloved mother.

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