A Spring of First
By Josh Resnek
It is coming up on spring. The spring of 2019.
This will be my first spring without my mother’s heart beating on this earth.
This is personal but on the other hand, there are dozens of you out there, hundreds really, thousands even, who have lost your mothers, or another loved one whose presence is sorely missed.
I lost my mother in July.
I went through my first fall without Mum – Labor Day, Thanksgiving, the Jewish holidays, Christmas, New Years Eve and on and on without Mum.
I’m going through the “firsts” this year, that is, the first spring, the first summer and then the firsts will be over because my Mum died last July.
When that first anniversary arrives, and the distance has grown further and further away from her touch, her voice, her love for me and for my kids and my wife and my sister – well, what is there to say?
Two days ago, a very dear friend lost her mother.
I knew the woman very well.
Shen had even written a book.
She was hidden from the Nazis by good people in Germany during the Second World War – an incredible story of fear and survival during a time of great loathing by the Nazis for mankind.
When my friend called and told me of her mother’s death, I was returned instantly to the moment when I stood next to my mother in her bed in quiet repose who had just died at the Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home – a monumental moment one tends never to forget.
How could I?
The day before she died, another hot day, a sultry, hot day, windy, beautiful really; the thick of summer during July. A time I love. I sat next to my mother in her wheelchair inside the small backyard at the rear of the nursing home.
My mother loved being outside on this day, the day before her last on this earth- and I loved being by her side.
The hot air swirled.
We held one another’s hands. We talked about this and that. She was almost completely with it at the end. At 97, she still knew what life was all about.
She had her mind. Her body was failing her.
I later took her for a ride in my car to Kelly’s on Revere Beach.
She enjoyed the ride. The windows were down. The air was hot. It was a gorgeous New England summer day.
She enjoyed finer food but the hot dog plate at Kelly’s was just fine for her on this day in July, 2019, the 20th to be exact.
When she finished lunch we headed back to the nursing home.
She hated the nursing home.
She mourned inside at losing her freedom to do as she liked. Only now do I realize how much she hated losing her freedom- how any one of us would likely feel the same way.
One year before, during 2017, my mother had to be moved out of her own residence.
From there, she went into an assisted living apartment on Admiral’s Hill.
She hated that, too.
I didn’t know it then but I was marching alongside with my mother to the final moment, which took about a year.
At the assisted living, she kept three or four pieces of the furniture my father had bought for her – substantial pieces of furniture a bit too large for the space.
The space was nice. Modern, tight, warm, air conditioned, and she was looked after beautifully by the largely Haitian staff at the assisted living. Those Haitian women were incredible caregivers. They loved my Mom. They watched over her because she was a great lady to them. She always thanked them for their consideration and kindness.
She was not one to complain.
As she weakened in her battle to remain relevant to herself and to her life on this earth, she had to be moved from the assisted living to the nursing home.
I didn’t understand then that my mother was beginning her disappearing act.
I guess I was blind to the downward spiral.
The natural monotony of long days seated in her wheelchair at the nursing home were broken by my daily visits, and those of my kids and the few friends remaining who cared about my mother. If you’ve been through this or are going through this now, then you understand what I am recalling.
By July of last year, my mother had made her decision to leave. It is not something she talked about.
But she was ready to leave on the last day I visited her, July 20, 2019. She was seated by the door to her room in her wheelchair.
Most of the folks living in the nursing home liked their wheelchairs by the doors to their rooms, kind of in a long line down the corridor.
I never thought it was horrifying – and I still don’t.
But now I understand how my mother hated her life being reduced to sitting in her wheelchair, in front of her room in the nursing home.
When I left her on that last time I was with her, we exchanged kisses. We held hands. We had been buddies for life.
As I walked away toward the elevator, I looked back at her. I pointed at her and said so she could hear me: “I’ll see you tomorrow, OK?”
“You go home. Don’t worry about me,” she said.
She waved me off smiling. She was done with everything when she said goodby that last time.
She had made up her mind it was all over.
How crazy it seems I didn’t sense that more strongly when I went down the elevator.
The next morning I arrived at the nursing home expecting to visit her only moments after she died unexpectedly.
It is a scene one tends never to forget.
She went the way she lived, quietly and with dignity.
She could have hung on a while longer, I thought – but then – what for? She had made up her mind that enough was enough.
Now the spring is coming. I can’t get over her not being here.
I cannot get out of my mind the picture of my mother waving me off, telling me to go home, that last time I visited with her at the nursing home.
“Don’t worry about me,” I remember her saying.
“Don’t worry about me,’ is the last lingering echo of her voice I carry with me.