Today, I was thinking about a beautiful spring day thirteen years ago when I was driving my mother home from an appointment with her oncologist. At the time, she was battling three different types of cancer and she was at the end of her journey. We had just been told that any further treatment would be futile. She was losing this battle and she knew it. We knew the time was drawing near to call in Hospice and I had been dreading that day.
The car ride home from that oncology appointment was one of the saddest times that I can recall in my life. I remember I had a lump in my throat the entire way home as I listened to my mother, who was trying to be brave and stifle her sobs.
What do you say to your mother, who has just been told that she is dying, except to tell her that you are sorry?
My mother was looking out the passenger side window away from me and I was trying to be brave for her. I was trying hard to keep the tears from spilling down my cheeks and I was failing. My biggest memory from that day is the large lump in my throat that accompanied me on the entire drive home and how powerless and helpless I felt in my struggle with not knowing what to say to my mother.
As we drove, she was the one who broke the awkward silence, and in a soft and low voice between sniffles, she said, “I’m so glad that God let me live long enough to see another spring… This will be my last.” The lump in my throat grew a little larger. I looked over at her and noticed she was admiring the view out the car window. It wasn’t until that very moment that I even realized that spring had indeed come.
I had been too busy to notice.
God’s beauty and splendor was all around me and I had almost missed it. I was the busy mom to two teenage sons and my mother was dying of cancer. I had been busy taking her to oncology appointments, laboratory appointments, and to the hospital for various tests and scans. I was busy taking her to the grocery store. I was busy cleaning her house. I was busy thinking about hospice care and how I was going to survive losing her. I was busy thinking my boys would soon need to be fitted for suits to wear to her funeral. I was busy with my own therapy appointments and trying to deal with my own anticipatory grief. I was busy feeling guilty that I was missing a lot of my oldest son’s senior year in high school. And I was busy trying to figure out how I could still be there for my mother, yet not neglect my husband.
No, I had not even noticed that spring had come that year. I had not noticed the beautiful pink cherry trees blooming. I had not noticed the blazing yellow pop of the forsythias. I had not noticed the pink peonies in my own backyard. I had even missed my mother’s favorite: Daffodils. And I had failed to notice the lightning bugs had appeared – always a favorite of mine.
I learned a valuable lesson from my dying mother that day. And I’ve never failed to notice the season of spring since. I see, I feel, I smell, I hear. I see the the blue skies with fluffy white clouds. I feel the warm sunshine on my face. I listen to the chorus of croaking frogs on a rainy night. I gaze at newborn baby robins in a backyard bush, their mouths gaping wide. I hear the mockingbird sing his magnificent tune. I stop to admire all of God’s beauty. I not only see the lovely irises blooming, but I stop to smell them too. I notice the smell of the rain on warm asphalt and I delight in the feel of that rain on my skin.
A few nights ago, I stepped outside after dark and I watched all the lightning bugs as they lit up the backyard with their greenish-yellow flashes of light. It was peaceful and quiet.
I stood there a while and just soaked in all that beauty. A beauty that I almost missed thirteen years ago.