Eight years ago today, I was at Baptist Hospital in Nashville. My mother was dying of cancer, and I had been flying back and forth from Maryland to Tennessee for months, guilt-ridden no matter which direction the plane was going. South meant I was leaving my very young children and husband; North meant I was leaving my very sick mama.
But on this day, our journey would end. I knew my mother's illness was terminal, a very rare form of ovarian cancer, so I didn't pray for her recovery. Instead, I prayed that she wouldn't die alone, that my brother and I might be at her bedside. I wanted to hold her hand.
It was an oddly gruesome yet beautiful scene. Her suffering was evident and difficult to watch to say the least. But the room was white, sun filtered through the window, and her sheets were crisp and clean. When it was over, I covered her, then spotted a vase of coral-colored roses on the window ledge. The whole thing had been so ugly—surgeries and treatments and tests and setbacks and loss of dignity, but there on that ledge was something beautiful. I began to pluck off the petals and scatter them across the white sheet. Death hadn't won. Cancer didn't win, either.
Later that day I drove to a friend's house. Her forsythia bush was in full bloom, its color so bright it felt almost blinding to my sore eyes. I remember staring at it, thinking how odd it looked and how strange I felt in a world without my mother. I also remember thinking that spring would get me through. There was the promise of green and warmth. God would get me through, too.
On this day so many years later, I am thankful to have been there with her, grateful to have had such a loving, quirky, sometimes crazy, sweet mama.