For six weeks following September 5, 1989, I would think of that day with sadness. It was the day of the funeral for my dear, great-aunt Florence. She had passed away peacefully in the spare bedroom where we had cared for her, in the home I shared with my husband and four-year-old daughter. Weeks later I learned that the day of her funeral was also one of the happiest days of my life: it was the day my son was born.
Months prior I had impulsively collected Florence from the nursing home where she had been installed to live out the final months of her life following surgery and a diagnosis of terminal Cancer. My decision to bring her home was made the moment she quietly told me about having a male nursing home attendant help her with her bath. The shame she felt was drawn in every line of her slumping silhouette and in the thin, shaking hands that covered the tears running down her face.
She was the sister of my grandmother, twice widowed, never having had children of her own. Her home was a sanctuary for me from my chaotic childhood. The time I spent in her peaceful home, pampered and adored, fanned the spark in me that believed I was worthy and deserving of love and affection.
Florence’s time with us was bittersweet. Near the end, I was getting up often in the middle of the night to answer her cries of pain. I was exhausted and she could see it, apologizing profusely the moment I came to her bedside on those dark nights. I told her she was doing the hard work, and I wished I could offer her more relief.
Late on the afternoon of October 17th following Florence’s death, we received a call from the adoption agency. A blue-eyed baby boy was waiting for us, he was six weeks old, born on September 5th! So surprised were we by his arrival, he slept in a drawer those first few days until we could set up the crib in the empty spare bedroom where my beloved great aunt had passed away. He was beautiful, precious and very unsettled over the abrupt change in his circumstances.
He slept fitfully and woke crying many times throughout the night, every night. I was exhausted and once, as I began to roll out of bed to comfort him, I heard my aunt Florence say to me through the fog of sleep; “Now, now, you sleep. I’ll take care of him tonight.” In the dream that followed, I listened to the cooing, soothing sound of her voice comforting him and I simply rolled over and fell asleep. When I awoke it was morning and I was startled to feel so rested! Then I remembered my dream and the full night of sleep that had followed. I rushed into my son’s room to find him still sleeping deeply.
It is absolutely possible that this was just the dream of an exhausted new mother, but I like to think Florence was there offering me the rest I needed so badly. The rest she couldn’t offer me when I was caring for her in much the same way. I like to imagine that during the short interval of days between her death and my son’s birth on the day of her funeral, they met each other in that mysterious place in-between this life and the next. I envision them together, with heads bent, foreheads touching, sharing the secret of the amazing gift that awaited me with his impending birth. It is a vision that brings me great comfort today as it did 22 years ago. I miss you Florence.
Happy birthday to my beautiful boy.
Mammaste. There is so much divinity in the everyday.