December 31

Chester Green and Ada Ruth Martin, 1948

Chester Green and Ada Ruth Martin, 1948

One: Song

Who knows what could strike before we meet again?
But if I fall down and die
Without saying goodbye
I give you this: you’ll have lost a friend.

Bruce Cockburn – “Birmingham Shadows”

Two: 2005
Sometime in the early morning hours of the day that would be New Year’s Eve, I woke up from a dream that had already vanished, except for the memory of two words: crash cart.

I rolled over and went back to sleep.

Three: Normal
The normal part of that Saturday morning lasted until 8:37. Until the phone rang. It was my dad. My mom had fallen. She’d hit her head. He needed me right away. I arrived at his house just as the ambulance pulled away. We followed, and as we turned the second corner he said, “I thought she was dead.”

And by noon, she was.

Four: Not Normal
At the hospital the only thing she said was that the backboard hurt. While we waited for the CT scans, I washed dried blood from her hands and her right elbow.

I was trying to convince myself that things weren’t as bad as they looked.

Five: New Normal
After the CT scans, she was moved to a trauma room, where the nurses worked swiftly, grimly and tried not to make eye contact with us.

The doctor started saying things like “no significant hope of recovery” and I slipped her wedding rings from her finger. Then I stepped into the restroom, the only private place I could find, and started making calls – my husband, my sister, the pastor. The plates of the earth were shifting, ever so slightly, but causing great earthquakes as I became the adult in charge.

My dad sat on a hard plastic chair, facing my mom; I knelt on the floor in front of him as he said “great fear of nursing homes” and finally “we have to let her go.”

Six: Tears
Family arrived, nurses withdrew, the chaplain appeared. As she slipped away from us, as softly as a whisper, we stood around her bed, holding her and each other. My father’s tears dropped to her dying face, the last rights of his love for her.

Seven: And it was over
I scanned the room, and my eyes fell on a red cabinet on the other side. The sign over it said: crash cart.

Eight: Ragged Grieving
Those first ragged months of grieving were harder than I could have believed. Almost anything would trigger a flood of memories, regrets, tears. The hardest ones were the ones that sneaked in and kicked me before I knew what was about to happen.

Bruce Cockburn’s song with the line “If I fall down and die without saying goodbye” reduced me to tears for the rest of the day.

I barely made it through my birthday dinner, because the thought of my bewildered father trying to shop for a gift was too much to think about.

Mother’s Day, as contrived as it is, was harder than I thought it would be.

Nine: Seven Years On
But gradually, we learned how to live around that hole she’d left in our lives – and it was a surprisingly large hole for such a small woman.

I still miss her more than I can say, but I was lucky enough to have the kind of mom I can still miss this much.

Ten:  A Namesake
I hate it that she never got to meet her great-granddaughter; she would have loved Hannah Ruth, her sweet namesake.

Listen to “Birmingham Shadows” here.

Posted on December 31, 2012, in Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Melinda, you have a magic way with words …. so few words to say so much. I have read this many times and each reading brings tears. Thank you for sharing your lave with us. Larry


  2. Sweethearts forever
    manifested in wide smiles
    and closely held hands.


  3. Melinda, this is terrific writing. You have packed so much into so few words.

    Its almost not fair that someone who can take such enviable photos can also write like this.


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