Sunday, August 22, 2010


This Friday, August 20th 2010, I was reminded on my way to the hospital, of the forty- fifth anniversary of the Beatles visit to Minneapolis and Metropolitan Stadium.  It was also the day of my mother-in-law's passing.
            I had carved out 25 minutes between yoga classes to make a run to the ICU.  I arrived, stood at the foot of her bed, and placed my hands on her feet.  With her oldest daughter at her left hand and another daughter-in-law at her right hand, I watched her take her last breaths.  She was gone within five minutes of my arriving. The men in the room, her three sons, and one grandson (my son), sat or stood near the perimeter of the room, and one by one said their goodbyes.
            My mother-in-law had suffered the last years with congestive heart failure and failing eyesight.  She depended on medication and an oxygen life line, and several recent blood transfusions.  But with her determination and with her childrens help, she remained in her home up until three days of her death.  An especially kind neighbor, saw to her appointments to the beauty parlor and almost daily visits.
             Maryann had been widowed for thirty years.  She lost her husband at the age of fifty-seven, my current age, and suffered that loneliness in spite of the company and pride in a parade of grand children and great-grand children.

            I will not talk about the mothering memories that her children will recall in eulogy.  I will say what I know and what I experienced apart from her being my childrens' grandmother and my former husband’s mother.  This woman was not a worldly woman. In many ways she shunned the world.  She preferred memories and values of the past to the present.  She preferred prayer to dialog.  And she sometimes excelled in suffering. 
            She hated that she could no longer read, or barely manage to watch her beloved Twins baseball games on TV.  She hated that she had no strength or interest in tending her flowers.  Apart from all that, she suffered tremendously from the demise of her son’s and my marriage.  For the past nine years, she suffered daily…remorse, shame, fear of the unknown…and offered it all to me in forms I did not always recognize as gifts.  Her cards, her calls, her tokens of reparation in the form of some small valuables continued over the years.  She prayed constantly for me in hopes that my business would improve.  She probably never gave up praying for my reunion with her son, even though I am in a committed relationship.
            I would still visit her. I would take her home-made soup or a jar of home-made jam. Her children may not know that I used to give her healing touch and reiki therapy, which comforted her.  There was not a time that we spoke within the last couple of years that she didn’t end the conversation with, “I Love You”.  Her fragile heart continued to suffer all the physical insults of age, a curvature of her spine restricted her breath, and the break of family bonds crushed her.  Her eldest daughter’s recent divorce broke her heart.

Over the last three days I have observed my feelings change from one who supports the bereaved to one who is bereaved. I had no way of knowing the loss I would experience with the passing of this tiny woman, with her fierce faith and long-suffering love.  

So Long Marianne by Leonard Cohen
click above to listen

Come over to the window, my little darling,
I'd like to try to read your palm.
I used to think I was some kind of Gypsy boy
before I let you take me home.

Now so long, Marianne, it's time that we began
to laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again.

Well you know that I love to live with you,
but you make me forget so very much.
I forget to pray for the angels
and then the angels forget to pray for us.

Now so long, Marianne, it's time that we began ...

We met when we were almost young
deep in the green lilac park.
You held on to me like I was a crucifix,
as we went kneeling through the dark.

Oh so long, Marianne, it's time that we began ...

Your letters they all say that you're beside me now.
Then why do I feel alone?
I'm standing on a ledge and your fine spider web
is fastening my ankle to a stone.

Now so long, Marianne, it's time that we began ...

For now I need your hidden love.
I'm cold as a new razor blade.
You left when I told you I was curious,
I never said that I was brave.

Oh so long, Marianne, it's time that we began ...

Oh, you are really such a pretty one.
I see you've gone and changed your name again.
And just when I climbed this whole mountainside,
to wash my eyelids in the rain!

1 comment:

Heidi said...

What a beautiful reflection on Grandma. Thank you for always continuing to be there for her during the past several years.

I meant to mention to you that I think we must have passed in the elevators that morning. I left just before you got there because I had to meet my team for the Ragnar Relay. Thank you for being there for my Mom when I couldn't be that day and so many days during the past year.

You are an amazing woman!

Love you,