top of page
  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

Bitterness has left the room

Someday I hope to be able to trace the route that bitterness takes when it flees from a soul and takes up residence in a place that contains more fertile ground. For years, that most fertile ground was tilled in my own heart's soil which was rich with memories of childhood scars. Over the years, a garden grew that produced its own bitter fruits which I routinely fed upon in the absence of other sustenance. Absence did not make the heart grow fonder; it deepened the bitterness. Presence, oddly enough, began the process of creating a different soil from which compassion could grow.

In these last few days, there is no corner of my heart that contains even a shadow of that nearly a lifetime of bitterness. My 94 year old mom and my daughter and grandchildren have been experiencing her favorite hot springs resort in Canada.

Everything is a "just one more time" experience for her. She hobbles to the hot pools, and while part of me worries every second about the safety of any step she takes, another part of me knows that this journey is important to her, to her sense of purpose and place in this life.

Her skin is paper thin and her balance awkward. She is good for only nine stairs at a time, but it is still nine. Her vision is mostly gone, but she still tells me to tie my shoes so I don't trip. Her memories of what we have done or not done here are a kaleidoscope of various adventures we have shared over the twenty plus years we have been traveling together.

She is here, fragile and a bit confused, but she is here. And I am filled with gratitude.

On our last night, we go to the Copper Room. This resort dancing hangout's band, The Jones Brothers, has been playing old favorites for over 20 years while mostly aged dancers glide around the dance floor like teenagers, smooth and silky. Our littlest great granddaughter, transfixed by live music, conducts the orchestra from the chair as dancers swirl past. My mom leans over and tells me that on a night like this, her boyfriend and she danced the night away, she in a red dress and heels that he said made her look like a fairy princess. She tells me that when she walked back to her hotel, she heard that war had been declared, and she listened to the beat of horses' hooves on the cobblestones as a nation headed for war with America.

I watch her face as she watches the dancers through eyes almost devoid of vision and wonder of the memories that must swirl in her head. I think about my father, the love of her life gone now for almost fifty years; she has been so strong and independent and resolute in the face of life's difficulties. Nearly every moment of this trip has filled me to tears. Life, precious life, has kept her here long enough for me to heal, and in the absence of old resentments, deep love has taken root and flourished.

Perhaps these last few days have been so poignant because in dressing her the first day, I discovered something that has escaped her aging attention. A very large growth has taken residence in her chest. I see it; I palpitate it. It is hard as stone and terrifying. When I mention it to her as calmly as I can, she shrugs it off as though I had asked her about an insignificant mole. Perhaps it is best that way. And so we have been having mini adventures with her head free from worry and my heart overwhelmed by the thought of what road might lay ahead.

It is 1 am. She may forget her medications at times, but she remembers as she stumbles back from the bathroom feeling the wall for support that she needs to close the door so the light does not keep me awake. When I see her struggling with the covers, I get up and tuck her in. Her face is beautiful in the soft light.

I whisper in her ear, "You are the best mom ever."

I think back to our leaving the restaurant she longed for one last waltz, sure that she still had it in her. As we entered the lobby, the strains of the music following us out, I took her in my arms and we danced. "You have to let me lead," I tell her. She answers that all her dance partners have told her that and laughs. On her way out the door, she tells us all, "This has been my best visit ever."

I am undone.

Time waits for no man and death awaits us all. It should comfort me that these last twenty years of caring for her in some way or another have healed my heart and hers. She has become the mother I had always dreamed of in my childhood.

And so, in these early morning hours, I sit and type and hear the rustling of the covers as she seeks sleep. I think, perhaps, it is time to move over and give her a snuggle, knowing that the gesture will open the door to conversation and a flood of memories of 94 years of living.

Or perhaps I will just let her sleep, and I will sit in my solitary sorrow contemplating the nights that will lay ahead...

Whatever the choice, I know with certainty that this road contains only love, forgiveness and compassion, and I ask for God's strength to have at least a modicum of the courage she had shown in living out this precious gift of life.

And in this, her final dance, I will let her lead as the last song plays out, as she has always done.

109 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

1 Comment

Feb 21, 2023

"You are the best mom ever" brought me to tears, as your meditations often do. This one is different, though, having faced issues with my own mom. Because of you, I was able to tell her, "I love you, Mom" and mean it during her last years. I wish I had told her she was the best mom ever. As always, thank you, Char. ❤️

bottom of page