I’m sorry I wasn’t strong enough to hold you up. I couldn’t raise you easily off the floor when you crashed upon it.
Your body coiling in on itself, all of your motors confused, you tried to make beauty anyway, cleaning kitchen counters until they gleamed, and your smile beamed. Coughing on fluids rising like a tsunami in your lungs, you could not speak or sing, but you sure could love. You rained gifts upon us and showered your loved ones with letters of accountability and forgiveness, little brushes of Black Hills Gold upon coals we kept hidden in our hearts. You laced us with the tiny diamonds of your wishes for us, ornamented with speckles of ruby that we may remember the fire and depth in the queen of your center, red and hot enough to warm a chill on the surface of any passerby. How your smile could set the world ablaze and raise even the gloomiest spirit to greater heights. I’m sorry I was dying with you, a hundred and ten pounds and starving by your side. You couldn’t swallow food or light, and my guts were all bound up tight in the shadows of the past I couldn’t release. You needed my vigor but I had none. For the thief of life came in the night and stole my might with poison. And you choked on your own internal flood while I was overcome, and we both came apart at the seams. My hinges loose and yours on overdrive overriding your dreams. I pulled from the depths of an invisible well to push your wheelchair up the hill, and you used the only strength left in your arms to pull yourself into the car. The doctors and medical personal couldn’t tell if we were delirious or just plain mad when we made jokes to lighten the living hell of losing everything at record speed. All your flowers and all the seeds you sewed with expert care over decades of struggle and despair. All the beauty you made over time washed away with the relentless tide, ebbing just enough to let you breathe, and flowing again to consume the feed you stored for the atrium. The birds set free to fly above the conundrum of your epic love stuck in a sinking ship. And all you could do was give and give from inside your soul until all that was left was to let go. And I know you heard my heaving breath and grunting force when I picked you up, and you felt my trembling legs. I hope you felt the love in my hands, too, and the grace guiding my every move. And I wish I could have been stronger for you. And though I still wonder if maybe you’d have stayed longer if I was, I hope you felt loved enough when I rubbed your feet, and made your drinks, and tucked you into bed. In the end, after you battled through the night, once you saw the light of the angels who came to take you home, I hope you knew you were not alone. I hope you felt my arms hold you there, and my fingers gently running through your hair. I hope you heard the love in my voice when I gave you permission to leave this earth. And that you knew what each and every moment with you was worth. To love and be loved by you, I’d do it all again. For all the suffering and the pain in your eventide only made more room for love to reside. I surrendered the past where your vessel went down and the waves still break. And I dance in the love you left in your wake with the pearl I found. Copyright © Sheyorah Naify, 2021 In Loving Memory of Deborah Renee Reeve 4/30/58-4/12/18
Art: Pink Dragon Pearl by Tina Liv e ns.
Author's Note: It took me this entire three years since my mother's passing to write on this topic. It has been a long time coming. This story-poem is about caring for my mother while she was dying of ALS, whilst I struggled with life-threatening illness of my own .