Yesterday was Easter Sunday, 2012. Easter is a time of family and candy and laughter. It is a time of looking forward with anticipation, and, if you are old enough, remembering with a melancholy heart.
My granddaughter, Maeve, a five year old budding philospher and origami master, surprised us over the weekend by suddenly asking, "What is your favorite holiday?"
Each family member thought some and then declared their favorite day. Thanksgiving for autumn food and colors, Christmas for presents and lights and music, the 4th of July for picnics and fireworks, Halloween for dress up excitement. When Maeve asked me, I said, "I'll get back to you." Each memory that I invoked included my parents. Both are gone now. I am a 64 year old orphan.
My mother's absence was especially felt this past Easter weekend. On Good Friday, we are reminded of the scourging of Christ and the desertion by his own disciples. The fear of torture and crucifixation made his most devoted followers hide or deny any connection to him.
There was one, it seems, who did not hide. His mother.
Throughout His mocking and brutal beatings by a foreign power, she looked on. At the time of His death, nailed to a cross, His mother was there. I cannot begin to imagine the heart rendering pain that she suffered that day. Nor can I imagine her surprise, fear and then joy to discover that the son that she lost was with her again.
That's not completely true. My own mother died, and then she came back to me.
In 1996, my two brothers and I were called by my father to come to Florida. My mother, after a long illness, had gone into a deep coma and was in the intensive care unit of a hospital. The doctor met us outside my mother's unit and told us there was no hope for recovery. She was on a respirator that was forcing her to breathe. Her major organs were breaking down, including her kidneys. She was dying. The 4 foot 11 inch dynamo who my brother John called "Queen" because there were few who could stand in her way, was almost unrecognizible. Her iron will, winning smile and sharp tongue were gone. In its place was a swollen body that was being kept alive by a machine that was inflating her lungs.
My father, brothers and I agreed that this semblance of "aliveness," made possible by the respirator, was not something that she would ever want or tolerate, and we had the respirator removed. The doctor told us, without the lungs functioning, her brain activity would cease after 20 minutes or so. There was an EEG machine to the right of her bed on a shelf.
How do you say goodbye to your mother? We were told that she might be able to hear us. One by one, we came to her ear and told her that we loved her, and thanked her for all that she had done for us. As we spoke to her, our eyes stayed locked on the blips of the EEG monitor. Twenty minutes passed and the blips continued. There was no breath, no movement. We tried to sound brave; we tried to hold back our tears.
At 30 minutes, the EEG flatlined. After a minute of the buzzing from the EEG machine, my brother John said, "She's gone. She's dead."
I leaned down close to my mother's ear and said, "The angels are here with you now, Mother."
And the EEG began to blip again.
My brother Dave said, "Holy Shit."
I looked at the monitor and at my mother. I said, "You are one tough lady, and we love you with all of our hearts, but it's time for you to sleep now, Mother."
The EEG flatlined again.
Spring and Easter are a time of renewal and rebirth. And sometimes, it takes a five year old granddaughter to help you remember the incredible power of love.
Langston Hughes wrote: "I stuck my head out the window this morning and spring kissed me bang in the face."
I think my favorite holiday is spring.
Copyright (2012) by James Hugh Comey