One Day

She lies on the bed with her eyes closed, her hair puffed around her like a cloud. She’s not sleeping inside those closed eyes. Her body is still but she laughs along with someone I can’t see. I come closer and tell her I’m there and she says, “Momma?” When I take her hand she giggles and talks to me about candy. Her hand feels so fragile, her skin tissue paper inside my hand. She is 95 years old.

But in that moment she’s a child holding her mother’s hand. And inexplicably I’m reminded of my daughters.

Later that day, when I’m cuddled up with my kids at bedtime, I’m reminded of that woman. It resonates with me deeply that in her last days her mind clings to moments like this one. These moments matter – deeply.

But it’s not that thought that steals my breath away and makes me tremble with new awareness. It’s this:

Someday, if our stories go as I hope, my babies will be old.

Someday their chubby, little hands will be wrinkled and fragile; their skin will be tissue-thin.

I hope that when that day comes my children will be surrounded by family. I have to believe, with every ounce of faith I can muster, that someone will love them as fiercely as I do and care for them and give them words of comfort when they’re scared.

One day my children will be vulnerable, weak, and maybe even call for me – but I won’t be there.

It’s heartbreaking and terrifying. But it’s also, ultimately, okay.

This is how life was designed. There’s an Irish proverb that says, “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.” Today, it’s my role to be the shelter. I protect my children, nourish them, and teach them. I do these things so that eventually they won’t need me. And then, one day, they will become the shelter – for their children and, perhaps, for me.

This is life.

And it’s beautiful, miraculous, and scary.

It’s also simple. We need to love each other. Protect each other. We need to be the shelter for the people who have no one left to look at them with love and memory.

And the next time I hold the hand of someone on the other end of life, I’ll remember that I’m holding the hand of someone’s child. And I will be their shelter.

“Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant with the weak and the wrong. Sometime in your life you will have been all of these.”
Dr. Robert H. Goddard

My heart goes out to those whose stories didn’t go as hoped, especially to parents who fiercely loved children who did not get the chance to grow old. Life has so many different truths and I hope my words didn’t cause any pain.

13 thoughts on “One Day

  1. You have written so well the thoughts I have had of my own children – thinking “who will be there for them?” I, like you, have had to grasp on to faith that they will be ok and cared for. I think what makes it difficult for me is being a nurse and seeing those who are alone so much at all stages of life….Thanks for a beautiful read.

  2. Reblogged this on Kodiko and commented:
    So beautiful and eloquently put. I don’t have children of my own yet, but I already feel this way, and know that my mother feels the same about her’s.

  3. Amy, your words resonate with me today. Last Thursday, my mother-in-law passed on – she was 86 and she passed peacefully in her sleep. It has been heartbreaking these past months to watch her battle with dimentia/alzheimer’s. It is so true that someday we may be the shelter someone else needs. It is also true that we will eventually need someone to be OUR shelter. This is a beautiful expression of how our humanity keeps us connected with each other.

  4. Must be allergy season because my eyes are wet too. It is so easy to be impatient with the aged and I find myself guilty of this. When they are difficult and rigid, it’s easy to think they should know better. Charity never fails, but it certainly is difficult sometimes but worth the effort to practice.

    I am working each day to prepare my children (some young adults now) for the day when I cannot be with them. The truths I shared will sustain them, the love and confidence I instilled in them will have shaped them, and they will be ready. No pain today, only comfort to think that my littlest son was never alone because I was able to share and cherish each day of his existence. Every single day of his life he was cherished, wanted, and loved unconditionally.
    How many of us are so blessed?

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