Bittersweet memories of the loss of my mother.
The cool desert winds of evening wafted through the bedroom window rustling the golden curtains. Startled, Esmé looked up from her reading as the unexpected memory of her mother embraced and soothed her, gliding in along with the moist rich scent of the desert rain.
Immediately, a memory resurfaced of the rainy, dark days leading up to her mother's death years ago. The remembrance of the harsh realities, the emptiness of spirit, of words left unspoken and the battle for hope, enveloped Esmé.
Her sorrow was banished as she remembered one day when her mother lay on the bed in her sister's house, bald, weak and pale as if drained of all blood - yet her mother's bright blue eyes had looked at Esmé with such love.
Esmé was afraid. Her mother looked so fragile but she so desperately wanted to hug her as she sat beside the bed. She did not for fear of hurting her mother's weak, wasted body.
Lord, please don't take her from me, Esmé silently prayed pitifully. But she knew it was no use. God rarely interfered in these matters. Miracles did happen but she feared not this time. Even knowing this truth, Esmé was aware of His Spirit with her, comforting her through this chasm of confusion and pain as she tried to accept the inevitable loss.
"Esmé, come here, lie beside me sweetie." Her mother said as she raised her once beautiful hand to lightly pat the bed next to her.
Her hand is still so graceful even now, Esmé thought, even though her mother's hands and arms were riddled with the evidence of blood and bruises caused by the doctor's vain attempts to subdue the voracious cancer that was consuming her mother's body. Her body was a battleground and showed the scars and carnage that came from her heroic efforts to gain victory over this most formidable of enemies.
"Okay Mama," Esmé smiled wistfully as she walked to the end of the bed and gingerly climbed up closely to her mother. For a split second she felt foolish, at 40 years of age, wanting to be held by her mother, but she knew that this was likely her last chance to be one with her mother, the only person on the Earth who Esmé knew loved her unconditionally. She snuggled in and wrapped her arm gently across her mother's waist and sighed.
It felt as if she was coming home after a long, hard journey as she let herself relax. Her mother's familiar scent brought memories of nights when Esmé had nightmares and would shuffle through the dark house to her mother's room to be drawn into the shelter of her mother's warm bed. No demons could harm her there, they would not dare.
Esmé felt safe in the cocoon of her mother's arms. She could hear and feel her mother's shallow breath and she rejoiced in knowing that she still had her even if it was just for these few moments. Esmé looked up and caught a glimpse of her mother's eyes closing to rest.
I wonder what she is thinking. Is she remembering all of those times I ran to her in despair and she wrapped me up in her arms, never speaking, just holding me because she knew that words could not heal the hurt. Esmé thought Mama had gone to sleep. She was so tired and slept most of the day as the end drew near.
Her eyes welled up with tears but she refused to allow herself to cry and disturb her mother's rest. No, Esmé, you will not cry and make her feel bad. She is suffering enough. You have to hold it together for her sake, for your sisters and your kids. Instead, Esmé kissed her mother's papery thin cheek and said, "I love you Mama."
"I love you too Esmé, so very much," her mother whispered. She had been awake the whole time, probably feeling Esmé's body shake as she tried to control her need to cry bitter tears.
Lying there next to her mother, was so familiar, so natural. It was like being one with her mother again, it felt so right. The bonds of love that were formed when God was growing Esmé in her mother's womb had only grown stronger over the years and now Esmé could feel them being cut, one by one, to release her mother to the arms of God. She could not bear the thought that soon her Mama would be beyond her reach until the day she too would leave her children to be reunited with Mama in Heaven.
The wind blustered through the window again, chilling Esmé and like the whiff of some much-loved fragrance the moment was lost. Esmé was once again on her bed, alone, in the desert.
Oh Mama, so many times over the past years I have wished you were here to hold me as I have struggled. I have missed you so much and I still think to call you, just to hear your voice and calm me when I am down. Please don't stay away so long next time. I still need you and I am lost without your love.
Esmé rose from the bed and walked over to the window, shutting it slowly as she looked up at the brightly glowing moon and felt the blessed breeze flow over her body.
In memory of Mama -- Celia Louise (Wilder) Manzanilla