This has been one week I won't soon forget. Too many goodbyes and sleepless nights.
My mother came up from Texas a couple of weeks before Christmas. It was the first time in nine years she'd made the trip during the winter. It was good to have her here, but the entire visit was tinged with a sense of foreboding and sadness for the time when she would have to leave again. Then the time came. Too soon. When I put her on the bus in the wee hours of the morning on Friday, as I watched through the window while she shambled along the crowded aisle, looking for a seat, I had to physically restrain myself from rushing through the door and snatching her off again. But I knew she had to go. Her possessions are in Texas, not to mention the doctors who care for her many health problems. So I stood there--braced against the brick wall outside the bus station--trembling with cold and raw emotion. I watched her settle in a seat. Then she found me through the window and blew kisses. I blew them back while tears streamed down my face and I hoped she didn't see them. Then, the driver turned off the interior lights and I couldn't see her anymore. Too soon, the bus started to pull away. I watched until it faded from sight out on the highway. And as I walked to my car, I missed her already. And I wondered--as I always do--if this would be the last goodbye.
I spent the next 27 hours on pins and needles, until this morning when I received the phone call, letting me know mom had made it home safe and sound, and more than a little exhausted. Maybe tonight I'll rest a little easier and get some sleep, now that I know mom is safe and comfortable in her own bed.
Seeing mom off on the bus wasn't the only goodbye I've had during the past couple of days. This evening, I attended the wake of a dear friend and extended family member. She died quite suddenly Thursday afternoon. She was only 5 years older than me and all I could think about was all the time we'd spent together when we were young. The pranks and, oh, the laughter we shared. The one constant about her was her ready smile and quick laughter. As I stood inside the funeral parlor, this was what I heard over and over again from the folks who came to pay their respects. She was always happy, always quick to laugh. The strange thing is, on the surface it seemed as though she had very little reason. I've known a lot of people who died from various ailments and diseases, but this dear soul surely suffered more during her short life than many of those. She developed diabetes several years ago. That was the beginning. Then her kidneys failed and, although she was on the list for a new kidney, she never received one and continued on dialysis until the end. A couple of years ago, the doctors removed one of her legs because it was becoming gangrenous--complications from the diabetes. Then, just a few months ago, they removed her other leg. But through the constant complications, therapy, recoveries, and the loss of both limbs, she never lost her smile and her laughter would burst forth at the drop of a hat. This was the one thing all of us who knew her remember most--she never pitied herself and she always seemed happy.
Bert, I know you're in a better place, but your time here was much too brief. You'll be missed, and I think the rest of us could learn a lesson from you.