Tonight, after a very hard day that included two falls – one of which was a full-force face plant resulting in a possible broken nose – I am sitting by the bedside of my boy.
As he sleeps, I watch for each breath, just as I did long years ago when he was a baby. Tonight, when he said he was hungry, I cut up his food and fed it to him, just as I did when he was a baby. When I asked him to take “one more bite,” the face he made took me back 50 years. And, as I put the straw to his lips for a drink, he bit down on it and didn’t understand when I told him to suck through it. Just as he did when he was first learning how straws work, when he was a baby.
Despite my age, despite having seen the death of people I love, I’m struck anew by how leaving this earthly life really is a reversal of how we grow into it in our beginnings.
I pray that his new life, which seems so imminent now, is as big an adventure for him as this one has been. But I also pray that whatever there is on the other side treats him more kindly, that it doesn’t hold the pain for him that this one has.
You see, despite the fact that he was wanted and loved, that he was winsome, that he was the first-born, that he had nearly every advantage, he wasn’t immune from the pains of living. He certainly wasn’t the perfect child; he bullied and teased his brothers, he fought with me, he lived a fast and often careless life. But his other-than-honorable discharge from the Navy broke him and kept him from jobs that he badly wanted. His happy-go-lucky nature and good looks led him into a lot of unhealthy associations, and his sometimes casual relationship to the truth drove me – and, I’m sure, his dad – nearly crazy.
But he always loved his family and was always willing to help a stranger. I often told people that if they were broken down by the side of the road, the best thing that could happen to them
would be for Martin to drive by. He loved to help and was truly puzzled by those who wouldn’t just drop everything when he needed something. How one person could embody such contradictions has always perplexed me. But that’s the story of how he has lived.
So, sleep, my boy. I hope your dreams are fanciful and not frightening. I hope your poor, tired body is finding rest. I am blessed to be your mom, and I’m honored to walk this last winding road with you, holding your hand for as long as I can.