I can honestly say it was the best of times and the worst of times. I was joyfully expecting my first child at the same time that my once-energetic, zestful mother was losing her battle with a brain tumor. For ten years, my fiercely independent and courageous mother had fought, but none of the surgeries or treatments had been successful. Still, she never lost her ability to smile.
But now, finally, at only fifty-five, she became totally disabled — unable to speak, walk, eat or dress on her own. As she grew closer and closer to death, my baby grew closer and closer to life inside me. My biggest fear was that their lives would never connect. I grieved not only for the upcoming loss of my mother but also that she and my baby would never know each other.
My fear seemed well-founded. A few weeks before my due date, Mother lapsed into a deep coma. Her doctors did not hold any hope; they told us her time was up. It was useless to put in a feeding tube, they said; she would never awaken.
We brought Mother home to her own bed in her own house, and we insisted on care to keep her comfortable. As often as I could, I sat beside her and talked to her about the baby moving inside me. I hoped that somehow deep inside, she knew.
On February 3, 1989, at about the same time my labor started, Mother opened her eyes. When they told me this at the hospital, I called her home and asked for the phone to be put to Mom’s ear. “Mom — Mom — listen. The baby is coming! You’re going to have a new grandchild. Do you understand?”
“Yes!” What a wonderful word! The first clear word she’d spoken in months! When I called again an hour later, the nurse at her house told me the impossible: Mom was sitting up, her oxygen tubes removed. She was smiling. “Mom, it’s a boy! You have a new grandson!” “Yes! Yes! I know!” Four words. Four beautiful words.
By the time I brought Jacob home, Mom was sitting in her chair, dressed and ready to welcome him. Tears of joy blocked my vision as I laid my son in her arms and she clucked at him. They stared at each other. They knew.
For two more weeks, Mother clucked, smiled and held Jacob. For two weeks she spoke to my father, her children, and grandchildren in complete sentences. For two miracle weeks, she gave us joy. Then she quietly slipped back into a coma and, after visits from all her children, was finally free of the pain and confines of a body that no longer did her will.
Memories of my son’s birth will always be bittersweet for me, but it was at this time that I learned an important truth about living. For a while both joy and sorrow are fleeting and often intertwined, love has the power to overcome both. And love can last forever.
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