“Never fear shadows. They simply mean there’s a light shining somewhere nearby.” —Ruth E. Renkel
It’s three a.m. in the semi-dark room where my mother and I spend the nights, she on the sofa curled into child-like roundness while I sleep in fragments of time on the chair nearby. The wall clock ominously ticks the passage of time. This is a night watch I suspect other daughters are assigned to as their elderly parents reach the end of their lives. I have been on this journey before but not alone. This is different. This is the last of my original family. Sadness intensifies in the silence of the endless nights.
I long for daylight, loving the way the sun lights the tips of the foam flowers in the perennial garden, the rosebushes just starting to show leaves, the bellflowers swaying in the back garden, soft wildflowers just beginning their entrance into the warm days of late spring and early summer. With daylight comes a sense of hope, of jobs to be done, nursing duties now beginning, activity replacing those silent moments of fear in the night when nothing can be done but the desire to find something that can be done thrives instead.
I long to be in my bed upstairs, listening to the soft snores of my dog and feeling the tiny body of my cat curled up at my feet. I long for the normalcy that I took for granted just a few months ago. But still I don’t wish for the night watch to end because that will mean an even greater sadness, an even greater sense of loss, more than my current feeling of having lost the mother I used to know, the energetic, creative woman so many others also love.
I listen for her breathing. I cringe when she coughs and relax when quiet comes again. But still there is that slow passage of time in the night. Hour by hour I check the clock and toss and turn and think and try to conquer the rising panic in my chest, wishing for daylight and the hope that it might bring.