The sound of my phone startled me as I started down a dirt path in search of momentary solitude.
I groaned, irritated by the interruption, pulling it out of my pocket to turn it off. I had no intention of answering the call, but the number on caller ID caught my attention. It was my dad, a man who has so little to say to me that simply receiving a phone call from him is a big deal.
A phone call from him meant that for some reason my mom was unable to call. It meant, surely, that the phone call was about my mom.
As I recognized the magnitude of the moment, the wind swirled around me and my body froze in panic. I was suddenly terrified and almost didn’t answer his call for fear of the news that was surely waiting to spill from the other end of the line.
This is it, I thought, fully expecting the worst.
I pressed the answer button with trepidation and after a quick greeting my dad said “I thought I’d better call to let you know about your mom.” I inhaled, preparing my mind for the worst.
My dad informed me that my mom was hurt. Hurt. Not dead. And I released a long, slow breath. She was bruised. She was stitched together in places. She would need minor surgery. But she was alive. She was OK, at least this time. And I was almost surprised by that fact.
Because I know it’s coming. As the days stretch out, I know her time here is dwindling.
I hung up the phone and began to run, the words please don’t leave me yet, Mom, racing through my mind as my legs propelled me forward. It was a silent plea that she would not yet leave me motherless—not for a long time. I quickened my pace, praying repeatedly—giving thanks and begging God for shelter from the promise of my mother’s death. As I sped through the canopy of trees, it was almost as if I were seeking refuge from the inevitable, trying to escape what is to come.
I’m not always so morbid. I’ve only begun to fear the death of my mom over the past several months. And the thought of it cripples me. Maybe it’s the recent deaths of so many loved ones that have set the wheels of panic in motion. Or the deaths of my friends’ mothers who are much younger than my own. My mom is lucky to have lived for as long as she has—more than seven decades. And I’m lucky that she’s lived for so long. But, as with all of us, her time is coming. And I just keep praying that it’s not up yet.
Because I’m not sure I can navigate this world without the one who brought me into it.
I’m scared of the next phone call. I’m scared there won’t be a next phone call – one from her, anyway. I’m scared that I’ll pick up my phone and dial her number, only to realize she’s not there anymore. I’m scared of losing the only person who has known me my entire life. And I’m scared of mothering my own daughter in the absence of my own mother.
But for today, I rest in the incoming texts that pour through the screen of my phone. The complaints about her injuries, the anxiety over her appearance. The photos of her travels, her garden, the books she’s reading. The narrative of her daily life.
And I with each response, I silently plead please don’t leave me yet—I’m not ready for you to go.
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