Thursday, September 20, 2012

bread and wine

My mother-in-law is dying. I know I've said that before. But this time, it's for real.

Here's what it's like, right now...

For twenty minutes every day, you stab little watermelon chunks with a fork, swirl them in the juice at the bottom of the bowl, and wait for her to open her mouth, the sign that she is ready for the next piece. The rest of your day is go, go, go, but during this time, you stop. You are present. You stare at the lines in her face, the colors of the blankets, the shape of her body under the covers. You try to memorize it all: every color, every curve, every sound.

How ignorant I was then! How could I possibly have thought that artichokes and strawberries somehow constituted some sort of "Last Supper"?! People who are dying don't eat artichokes and strawberries! People who are dying eat...watermelon.

 People who are dying say things like, "a loaf of bread and a jug of wine", and expect you to know what they're talking about. Last Supper, indeed! The only thing your small mind can conjure up is Jesus, until she gives you another clue. You have to ask for it three times, until you finally make out her whisper: "The Rubaiyat...... Omar Khayyam".

And then you mention that you wished you had your computer, because you'd look it up. The dying person knows what he/she wants, and tells you to look it up on your phone. She may be 86 years old, but she knows that you can find anything you want on a phone!

 Thank goodness the caregiver has a smart phone, even if you don't.

 And so you begin to read (I highly suggest you read this aloud.  Just do it.  Please):

 Wake! For the Sun, who scatter'd into flight 
 The Stars before him from the Field of Night,
 Drives Night along with them from Heav'n, and strikes
The Sultan's Turret with a Shaft of Light. 

You scroll down to see that there are "CI" verses. So you go to the middle, somewhere at random, and read aloud some more, filling the room with rhythm and rhyme:

 And we, that now make merry in the Room 
 They left, and Summer dresses in new bloom 
 Ourselves must we beneath the Couch of Earth 
 Descend--ourselves to make a Couch--for whom? 

 Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend, 
 Before we too into the Dust descend; 
 Dust into Dust, and under Dust to lie 
 Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and--sans End! 

You succeed in barely not choking up and crying. And then, in the scrolling, you see it. And of course you read it. Aloud.

 A Book of Verses underneath the Bough, 
 A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread--and Thou 
 Beside me singing in the Wilderness-- Oh, 
Wilderness were Paradise enow! 

We're getting close, friends. This person is gone.


Anonymous said...

I didn't make it half way when my eyes had already a pool (sans the party of course}. So sad to know that she will no longer be physically with you but so happy to see you savor every single "last" event, moment of her life. I just hope you keep your sanity through the process. Besitos de coco (Coconut kisses)

Sarah Milteer said...

She's walking a path through the woods, onto the next place, it's quiet except for the rustle of the leaves and the crunching of the leaves underfoot. We can still see her as she walks away, becoming quieter as she goes.

eva said...

what can I say.. blog more. Now I have to read the whole poem, huh.

ani rose said...

mm... will finish reading the Rubaiyat later today or this weekend... those simple lines I love: a book of verses underneath the bough, a jug of wine a loaf of bread and though.... i think I read it before once....
I like the You language here Sue, expressing more of how it is for you, and so personalized for us, too... thanks for writing... thanks for being there... I do hope you get to sketch her lines as well......

Kate said...

So sorry. And so glad that you were able to give her what she wanted and needed on that moment.

Maria said...

Oh, dear. It is my goal to read one new blog a day and I stumbled on yours. And now excuse me, I must go re-do my eye makeup before work...

Anonymous said...

You know Hilary went and visited her just the other day for Hospice, she was wondering if she was related to you all. I am really sorry to hear this Sue.