I was sitting next to my mother at the nursing home today, holding her hand as she went in and out of sleep, and thinking back to the day almost seven years ago when my brother died. Michael was then about the age I am now, and nearly all of his life, he had been bright and strong and healthy and active. But cancer had so quickly taken all of that away.
I don’t know what he knew or felt that day; the morphine left no sure expression on his face, or maybe he had already mostly crossed the divide. But I remember my mother sitting by him on the bed, holding his hand, and comforting him with her calm quiet presence, showing no sign of the desolation I knew was inside her. She was eighty years old at the time, a thousand miles from home, and I remember watching her, wondering at the source of her strength and composure. Was it her religion, her belief in family, or as simple as a mother’s love for her son?
She doesn’t mention him often now, as her own disease works its ravages on her mind and body. I wish I could reach back in time and borrow some of the strength she showed that day, to give her back some measure of the comfort she surely gave to him. I can’t. I don’t have the power to reach through time that way. But in remembering, maybe there is strength enough.