“One crowded hour of glorious light is worth an age without a name”
I sit in silence sometimes revisiting that day, August 24th, 2008. I sit remembering those last few hours and the many days that have followed. The remembering is painful. However, with the memory of Mom, today, Mother’s Day, May 10th 2009, I grasp for the rich wonderful moments of who she was and, by her life and spiritual endurance, taught us to be. And I am grateful for this memory and for the mindfulness that God exists and embraces us through our trials. I am grateful for the simple instructive on how to live life best: to know Him and to love Him. And that is what Dorothy Kathryn Riley Campbell, my mom, through her faithfulness and steadfastness, taught us to do.
When faced with life’s challenges we can never be certain of their outcome. But of one thing we can be assured and that is everything and everyone comes to an end. Does scripture not give us this promise? And is this part of the Divine Plan? Quietly, within an instant, we just slip away. There are no alarms. There are no songbirds heralding our departure. There is just the peace and stillness of transitioning from one plane of temporary existence to one of permanence – or so we hope. And we make the journey alone.
I sit in silence sometimes revisiting that day. I wonder how alone Mom felt after living a life where companionship and love meant so much to her. Would she have been more comforted knowing that her two sons were standing by her side? I wonder if she heard me as I stood at her bedside just a few hours before her transition telling her how much I loved her. Was she able to hear my thoughts when I questioned why she had a tube going down her nose and throat when I knew she had trouble swallowing pills? Did she want to tell me to have the doctors take it out? How could she tolerate this? Was she afraid being so alone? Did she awaken, I wonder, at any time between my visit and her passing and look around the room for me and Guy? Did she awaken just long enough to say goodbye but we were not there? I keep struggling with this and the thoughts about it that seem to make me feel guilty. Did she feel abandoned? Could I have done something more to ease her anguish, her pain, her fear?
Hours before her passing as I was returning from Sag Harbor, I suddenly began to cry without any provocation. The tears seemed to flow ceaselessly. There was no connection to thought, memory or premonition, as I recall. I just cried without a sense that it would ever end. It was like a crying for cleansing. It ended less abruptly than it began amidst my apologies and my attempts to make sense of it all. As I look back, however, I ask myself if it could have possibly been Mom's Spirit coming to me to say goodbye. Or was it during those moments that they were putting the tube down her throat - that her Spirit was calling out for help? Whatever the reason, the crying came forth and left. Hours later, after my visit for what would be the last time, my brother and I stood before her looking down on her now swollen body which for 50 years had been constantly tormented by pain. "Finally, there was stillness and with it, that long awaited peace".
The questions never seem to end as I reflect on those last moments day to day. Sometimes as I sit in silence revisiting that day, I question how someone so good, someone who suffered in life so greatly could come to such a lonely end. It seems not fair for one who, despite the never ceasing pain most of her life, should endure a departure void of the love and compassion that had been her pastoral mission in life. Just someone to have been there in those last moments to have looked in her eyes, to have held her hand and said “Doris - I love you. God loves you. Job well done”. But then, of course, she seemed to have supernatural FAITH. Perhaps her journey home was far from lonely. Perhaps, her departure was a flight of angels - calling her name, holding her hands, kissing her cheeks and reassuring her that all was well, they were taking her home to be with her Jesus. And that He was awaiting her with open arms and blessings for her steadfast endurance and love and for the comfort she gave to so many others despite her own situation.
I used to wonder why Mom would lie in her bed and watch the same romantic movies over and over again. She knew how they would end as we all do when we have already seen the end. But, time and time again, she would watch them. She would cry through them. She would exclaim her favorite part when it arrived. She would smile with joy when the end finally came. I tried watching some of the movies soon after she passed. It took awhile but, then, I got it. With all the movies I had watched before, always knowing the end and that it could not change, I would sit and desperately wish for change so that the end would be different. With Mom’s movies, though, the endings were always happy and acceptable - no need for change. Once, again, she taught me a lesson. Practice your happy endings. Find calm within your Spirit rather than fury within your desperation. And when your time comes, sit in silence and revisit only beautiful memories and, quietly, slip away into a paradise of peace.
Thank you Mom! I love you! I will miss you!!!
And, thank you, my dear friend Bari for teaching me to look deeper. I love you too!