I pull out a slip from my briefcase. It’s a charge slip, from what, I don’t remember. Unfolding it unlocks the memories – the cab ride, the conversation, the unexpected kindness. The date on the slip is February 5th, 2011. I flew on the first trip out of Seattle to get to Denver to be with mom – and to help Rob & Lori get some free time. I couldn’t leave on the 4th, I had to wait until Saturday morning. Rob called that Friday afternoon and said he thought my timing was good – that mom’s passing would be soon. I felt it, too. As much as I didn’t want to go, I knew I had to. I was afraid, but that was exactly why I had to do it.
Upon landing, I turned on my phone and called Rob’s house to say I’d be there soon. He asked if I’d gotten his message, but no, in my hurry to connect, I’d called him first. He told me there was no rush now – mom had passed away about an hour before. I stood in the aisle way and let the tears fall. It was what I expected, but to get so close to making it there and not being able to be with her was disappointing. I wanted to be with her, as I had been with dad, to hold her hand as she passed.
In the terminal, I went the shuttle counter. They said it would be an hour before they left. I couldn’t stand that – after leaving at the crack of dawn, I now stood idle while my mom was awaiting her final journey. I told them to cancel my seat and went to hail a cab. I knew it would be a lot more expensive but that wasn’t really on my mind.
I was on the phone with my brother when I got in. The driver, Clyde, politely asked how I was doing after I was off the phone. I told him it had been a rough morning. Without pushing, he began talking to me, quietly, compassionately, letting me know he understood I was in pain. His kindness throughout that trip to Littleton was like a much needed balm for my soul. He let me talk, he consoled and shared his thoughts all without judgment or opinion. When I arrived at Rob’s house, I felt as though I had unburdened myself and felt lighter. I’ve never hugged a cab driver before, but Clyde was like an angel who let me rest on him while we made the trip to mom’s side.
I spent the next hour with mom, mostly by myself, smoothing her forehead, touching her hair, letting her know I was there after all. I hoped she knew I tried to make it. She was peaceful and was where she wanted to be – with dad. I talked to her and told her I would miss her – words that barely scratched the surface of my meaning, but still – it had to be said. As I sat by her side, it dawned on me. February 5th. Nine months exactly after dad’s death. The time for a life to begin was the time it took for mom’s to wind down. Somehow, the symmetry and the balance appealed to me and I knew it would have pleased her, too.
Not everything in this life gets wrapped up neatly. We don’t get to choose our timing or how we pass, but for mom, she had the best outcome possible. She didn’t suffer, her decline was fast, and she was where she was loved. Every one of her children came to spend time with her and people she knew made a point of calling, writing, or coming by. She was loved to the very end. All these were gifts we shared and while I may not have been able to be at her side at the exact moment, I was there, in the air to meet her. And through the chance encounter with someone who knew how to listen, I was able to achieve the peace I needed to say goodbye.
From that slip of paper, a flood of memories and feelings….the urgency of the journey, the kindness of another human when I needed it most, and the memory of holding my mother’s hand for the last time. Small scraps of the past, carefully tucked away, marking our most important memories along the way.