I could hear her words as I positioned my bobbin spool to “look like a 9” before I slid it into the machine.
I was putting final touches on a mostly thrown together preschool-sized halloween costume.
Halloween held a strange juxtaposition in our house growing up. No witches or goblins or devils because those wouldn’t be edifying, but beyond that, the sky was the limit.
Custom, matching clowns, complete with ruffled collar. Why not.
A hand-sewn robot complete with shiny sparkle fabric cuffs and stiff metallic-like skirt. Done.
A hobo. Too easy.
A custom scarecrow complete with patches, a triangle hat, and straw stuffed arms. Sure.
She taught me to sew early and often. She instructed kindly and patiently, seated across from my strong will and stubbornness.
And that night, to the hum of the sewing machine, I heard her words and instruction in a different way. A way that reminded me that her words will only ever be in the whisper of memory.
Less than a week before she died, we spent a weekend with my mom. It was a pre-planned trip that fell sovereignly on some of her last interactive moments in this world. She had already stopped speaking almost completely. Her hand squeezes that sent a mother-love deep into my heart grew fainter.
On Saturday evening, I thought, well maybe we will come back for her 64th birthday in a month. Some banana cake would do us all some good. Sunday morning, as the warm Phoenix day began again and our little family rallied toward breakfast, I stole a quiet moment to bring her a Good Morning.
I always wondered if I would know. If I would know when the last moments were upon us.
In that tear soaked moment, in an unreturned embrace, over thin breaths of air, I knew.
I went to church that morning with a raw tenderness that made me pull my littles close and wrestle in a new sense of Hope and despair. Images of the weekend played through my heart’s mind like a slide show.
The toddler running toward her to a huge embrace, with an innocent acceptance of the rhythms of life.
Kids joining her for morning cartoons.
Curling up next to her, sinking deeply into the soft blanket and frailness of her shoulders, to rest together.
Picnicking on the floor of her room with the chaos of 7 joy-filled entertainers.
Setting a grand-baby on her chest, awakening her limp arm to a strong embrace around him. Holding tight.
Sacred preschool voices singing Amazing Grace to the accompaniment of a dear friend’s violin.
And then, her words.
The words that have always instructed and taught. That have encouraged and supported. That have questioned and inquired.
That Saturday, they were the most sacred and knowing words. Now seared into the most tender parts of my soul.
As the grand-baby on her chest became squirmy in his own sleepiness, I finally relented and lifted him from her grasp.
“Ok, this little guy is getting sleepy. He’s off to his nap. Say night-night to Gigi.”
And then, from lips that had spoken barely a whisper for days, she spoke.
Slowly, labored, intentionally. “Bye…Cyrus…”
I turned to leave, pressing down the sobs that threatened to burst from my heart. I walked slowly down the hall, holding tightly to the baby in my arms.
She said goodbye.
In that moment, where it was just the three of us sitting on the edge of her creaky hospital-style bed, in the familiarity of her own room, she was saying goodbye. It was a deep, inexplicable sense. She mustered all strength, to say goodbye.
Not “goodbye, see you after your rest” but truly “goodbye.” Perhaps as if to say, “goodbye, see you after this eternal rest.”
The antenna I made to complete the three-foot tall bumble bee this year were miserable compared to what she taught me. They paled in comparison to the exacting creativity she poured into every. single. halloween.
She would have been proud though. And I can hear her voice, with words she never actually said.
Oh so cute. It turned out great. Are you a buzzy bee, Bram?
May her words persist. To instruct and encourage. To speak truth. In my heart, and through my lips.