As I sat by Mama's bedside Sunday evening, I noticed a tear rolling down her left cheek. Was it really a tear? Was she crying? Had she heard me crying just moments before?
Oh how I wished I could comfort her, could put my arms around her and give her a big hug, and we could sob in each other arms to release the tension of three weeks in a palliative care unit. But I hesitate to even hold her hand now because when I do, her breathing pattern changes, and the look on her face indicates she's in pain.
I wiped away the single tear and sobbed some more. I'd give anything if I could comfort Mama right now. If I could lessen her pain. If I could make it all better.
How many times has she comforted me? Of course she was there when I was a baby and needed my mama's touch to go to sleep or to make a fever all better. But she was also there to hold me when someone made fun of the way I ran. She said the right things when my kindergarten friend moved away. She listened to me cry when I got frustrated over homework, and she held me tight when my cat Bootsie died.
Throughout my adulthood, she was there as well. She offered comfort with soothing words after a long night with a crying baby. She gave a tight hug when I was sad.
Comfort comes in many forms, and sometimes it was a pot of rice for me or one of my children who had been sick. Other times, it was a lemon cake to cheer me up or a Saturday night dinner of fried chicken and mashed potatoes.
All comforting. All from Mama.
Over the last dozen or so years, Mama has needed a lot of comfort. Alzheimer's is not an easy diagnosis to accept, and its many attributes are anything but comforting. Many times I reassured Mama that we would take care of her. Many times I told her we'd do all we could to make her feel better, to make things easier for her. Many times I just held her and we cried.
When Daddy died in March, Mama needed much comfort. She needed someone to sit beside her and just hold her hand, just like Daddy used to. So we sat on her couch and held her hand. Family members, neighbors, caregivers. The simple touch of joined hands brought her some comfort through her grief.
But now, I can't even do that. I don't want to hurt her, and to be honest, I don't like the feel of her swollen hand, the strange clamminess of her skin, the totally lack of movement in her fingers. It's not my Mama's hand anymore.
How sad that in the moment Mama and I need comfort the most, we cannot give it to each other. How terribly sad.