That morning I arose early as always and said my morning prayers. It was hot but since it was the rainy season it was not as hot as the other 6 months of dry, scorching heat. El Salvador is a lush tropical country to which my family including my mother went to serve our Faith in 1987.
This is my precious mom. Marion. Her mother and father spelled her name in the "masculine" way, a fact that would cause her some serious issues later in life during the McCarthy era but more on that at another time. In 1986, Marion was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer. A lifelong smoker and pretty heavy drinker the toll on her 5'2" body showed itself late in her life but show itself it did. With a crash of reality! Mom went through chemo like a champ with me by her side and the doctor reported that the cancer was gone. Not wanting to be so far from her family and to infuse meaning into her almost shortened life, she decided to come with us to El Sal. That was a heroic deed, believe me.
In the war, she and my father had traveled all over Europe but a small, Central American country, still fighting a civil war, that was a tad scarier.
We settled not far from this volcano in a little town named Sonzacate. Mom's eyes were big often but from awe at the beauty and fear of the sounds of war but she soldiered on beautifully. After some months, however, she began to show signs that something was not quite right with her health. I took her to the doctor and we managed to communicate pretty well even though my Spanish was not great yet and hers was very limited. After tests, the doctor told me that the cancer had spread to her brain and liver. My beloved mom was ending her time here and I was devastated. I never told her but she knew, I am certain. Every day, between raising my son, traveling to share with people in far away villages and teaching English to make some kind of living, I would go to her and lay on her bed, rub her back which always hurt and we talked. Essentially, we reviewed her very interesting life. Her loves, her regrets, and her wishes. We would become emotional, we'd laugh and we made lots of promises. Her short-term memory was going as the cancer affected her brain but she was herself when talking of the past.
How do I describe how much I loved this woman who had adopted me late in her life with great eagerness but not very many skills. I love her and her feisty self.
Then she began to hurt even more and she didn't want to get out of bed due to her energy level. I would stay with her longer and more often. We still had our talks. One Sunday I went to her and she was bright eyed and ready for life. She wanted to sit up, she wanted a bath and for a moment I thought she was cured. I have since learned in my Doula training that this is very common. They rally and give us a chance to say goodbye. I bathed her that day and we were as happy as we had ever been. Then this cloud passed over her face. It was the cloud of weakness returning. I gently laid her down and those big blue eyes that could charm any man looked at me with such love then looked over my shoulder. She saw a loved one I am sure for the look on her face was one of recognition and profound peace. I knew this was it and I became very emotional alternating between telling her how much I loved her and saying prayers out loud for her.
Her soul took flight to its home. In a way, my life as I had lived it went with her. When you let your mom go, it is a profound grief but interspersed with that was the promise that our months together during the winding down of her life here on this earth was so comforting. I learned to walk with my feelings. To invite them in and to pray for her. I performed acts of service in her name as a very dear friend advised me to do. All these things helped but to this day, while I know she is near me, I miss her.
Death is a natural part of life that needs to be experienced as the truly amazing, difficult passage that it is. We cheat ourselves when we close it off in some institution and sterilize it with hushed whispers and closed doors. Mom, even in your death, you enriched my life. I love you still.