Nearly eighty, my mother has a dainty, special way of doing things. She sprinkles lavender on the sheets as she makes the beds, smoothing them over and over until not a wrinkle mars the pristine snowy whiteness. She always sets the table with her own gracious knack for beauty whether it be for a splendid Christmas dinner or a simple snack. She takes scissors and a basket and goes outside to gather flowers; snipping each gently in a glorious mix of domestic and wild. She squeezes lemon oil onto an a piece of old cloth and rubs down the furniture until it gleams. She pegs as much of her laundry as she can to the clothesline. She is small, dwarfed by the mountains and the summer sky, her hands lovely and meditative as she expertly applies each garment to the line. Her fingers move fluidly, like music.
Even her most ordinary actions reflect the smooth, fastidious beauty of her soul; the whiteness of her linen, the garland of parsley with which she wreathes the pink slices of ham, her perfectly scripted lists of tasks to be completed, the single rose placed at each person’s place-setting, her hands tenderly cleaning the collection of crystal snowflakes hanging from the mantelpiece. She exudes a living prayer; a purity and sweetness about her things, her person, her life. She is one of those who can hear the singing of the seas in a shell.
The above photograph, which I have always loved, was taken on her 19th birthday. Her gown was a rich, smooth olive green satin. She exudes loveliness from every pore of her body. Her creamy, flawless skin had the texture of silk. My mother still carries herself with the same regal elegance, and her skin is just as luminous. Her eyes, still beautiful, are more sentient now. They contain the joy of her almost eighty years of living, but her pain and grief also. She has at times dwelled in Gethsemane, a place of passion, where the agony of love and death come together.
All my life, her soft hands have smoothed my journey. They have tended my bumps and bruises, soothed the tears from my face, stroked my hair, cooked and baked my favourite foods, written notes of love and encouragement, sewed me dresses, turned the pages of the many stories and poems she read to me, tenderly rocked my babies and grandbabies. My mother has reassured me when I have been anxious and fearful, cried with me during times of sadness, laughed with me during times of joy. She has loved me during my worst moments, and during my finest. Without her smoothing presence, the pathway would have been unbearable at times. Through the medium of her human love, it is she who first taught me the power of God's love.
I know that each moment I have left with her is infinitely precious. My fear of losing her rises up and chokes me. I ache with unbearable sorrow at just the thought of it. It is my fervent desire, hope and prayer to caress, ease and smooth the last years of her life's sojourn, just as she has always smoothed the way for me.