Tonight Madeline is refusing to go to sleep.
She wails from her crib, freely expressing
her displeasure at being put to bed.
I just walked from the dark window in my room
to the corner (also dark),
then to the living room, then back here again.
I suppose a part of me is screaming like Madeline
from the news I got tonight – of my mother’s cancer.
The word looks so odd to me there on the page.
My grandmothers both had cancer,
but not so early in their lives.
My grandmothers are both dead.
Another word that looks very odd.
But my mother is not dead.
Her discomfort is proof of that.
This is exactly the news I have dreaded for so long.
When the thought of losing a parent
first crossed my mind a couple of years ago,
the very idea filled me with panic.
A sickening panic and overwhelming fear.
I still remember that initial response
and now that I’m faced with the reality of it,
I only feel numb.
As though I also have gun under anesthesia –
and so I make myself write it… coldly?
I don’t mean it to be cold.
I don’t mean it to be at all.
I only want it to go away.
And maybe it will.
With more surgery,
and with radiation.
Maybe it will go away,
and maybe her face will be OK.
Dad talked tonight on the phone – about God,
about church, about Bible study,
and I told him I’d pray for Mom but…
But pray for what?
To tell God what’s going on?
How I feel?
How Mom feels?
If he doesn’t know, then he won’t be of much help.
We all die.
We all know we all die.
And if God already knows about my fear,
about mom’s pain,
how much I love her,
and how I can’t imagine the world
without her in it somewhere,
then maybe this is my prayer to him
right here in my notebook.
Gentle Jesus, comfort us all.
Comfort Madeline who doesn’t want to go to sleep
and help us all accept
our inevitible time to sleep.
But wake us again in a happier place,
well rested and full of light and love.
As a child on vacation,
I had to endure many hours at a time on the road.
Mom always told me to lie down and go to sleep,
and when I woke up, maybe we’d be at Grammy’s house.
I wonder if that is what it’s like to die?
When we wake up, we’ll be at Grammy’s.
The journey passes with our father at the wheel.
Our only job is to rest while he takes care of us.