It's hard to watch someone you love deal with illness. You find yourself wishing you could take the pain away or absorb the pain yourself. These past few days I found myself reminiscing as I covered the miles between home and Charleston. I'm very blessed to be able to say I had a wonderful childhood and much of the credit for that goes to my mother. There are so many things I can say about the impact she has had on my life. She has always been a rock I could lean on. Growing up I knew how hard she worked. Most nights she was up late washing and ironing. She would fall into bed exhausted late at night and get up at 5:00 in the morning to cook breakfast, feed animals, sometimes milk a cow (yeah, we were country when country wasn't cool) and then go to work at the dress plant. I honestly don't know how she did it all.
Moma decided when I was just a little girl that she would call me Liz. It's what she's called me all my life. I don't know where it came from. I suspect that it had something to do with the fact that my daddy had an old girlfriend named Lillie. Whatever the reason, I consider it a special name chosen by her just for me. I've always felt honored to have an official nickname. My nephews all called me "Aunt Wiz" until they could say it clearly.
I don't think I was a horrible kid but I'm sure I didn't make life easier. I was more interested in playing, reading and wandering the woods than I was in being any help to her. I wish now I had spent more time in the kitchen with her just watching her do things. But when you're a kid there's always a new book to read or a television show you just can't miss. At the time you think it's the most important thing in the world. It's when you get to my age that you realize it wasn't.
Back then I was spoiled and didn't really know it. If I said I had to have a certain blouse or dress the next day, it didn't matter how late it was, Moma would find a way to wash and/or iron it for me. Daddy was tight with money (that's a story for another day) but we always ended up with most of what we wanted at Christmas time. I know she threatened him and he knew better than to argue with a mother's wishes. She took time to help me with homework and show me how to hem a skirt or cut out a dress pattern.
There are defining moments in everyone's life. When I was eleven years old, Moma found out she had cancer. It was the scariest event of my life. She went to the hospital where she would remain for a very long time. My brother stayed with daddy and I went to stay with my aunt for the summer. Every night I laid awake long after the house was quiet and everyone was asleep and I cried and prayed with all the fervency and sincerity an 11 year old could muster. I begged God not to let my moma die and to make her well and bring her home so that we could all be together again.
God answered my prayers and brought her home to us. I still look back on that experience and realize it was one of the times my faith was stretched to the limit and the answer to my prayers galvanized my relationship with God. I discovered He was more than somebody I heard about in Sunday School. He had time to hear my prayers and see my tears. My little world mattered to Him.
Here I am all these years later all grown up and driving down the road crying and telling God how much I love my Moma and explaining why I need her and can't let her go. Are we ever really all grown up? Do we ever outgrow the need for the one person who we can run to with any problem or any dream and know nothing is too small or too trivial to share? I don't think so. I tell Moma sometimes that I could be sick with my eyes closed and she could lay her hand on my head and I would know it was her touch. Nothing else feels like it. Nothing comes close.
In the hospital she was confused because of the sickness and the medicine. She rambled a little and was obsessed with getting out. She was worked up and fiesty. But the minute I said I had to get on the road, she became crystal clear. "Be careful. Watch out and let me know you get home safe." It's a mother's nature. It comes through like shafts of sunlight through curtains. You can't block it out.
So, today I talked with her on the telephone. She was having a good day. We laughed about a couple of things that I don't remember. Moma always laughs. It's one of the things I love most about her personality. Everything is funny. She asked about the boys. I assured her they were fine. We talked about what we were having for supper. We talked about her other grandsons and the new baby chickens they have. Everything and nothing...yet all so important.
At the end of the conversation I say "I love you." She says "I love you too, Liz." Then she says, "You're my gal." I say "You're my gal too. And you're my pretty moma." It's how we end every conversation. I'm so thankful for the good days. And the moments of sunlight. There's nothing else quite as beautiful.