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Only Daughter

I spent most of last week at my mom's. She was in the hospital for a few days. Nothing too serious and all is well for now. After I took her home, I stayed for a few nights to help her readjust and ease back into her environment. She was very happy to be back home where she has a regular routine, and her surroundings are familiar. One of her caregivers and I worked together to figure out if my mom would need any additional items and equipment that I don't already have in place to make my mom's home safe and comfortable for her. While her caregiver tended to laundry and helped my mom shower, I filled the bird feeders, changed out some light bulbs, swept out the garage, fixed a shower door, had someone install hand bars in her bathrooms, and cleaned. It was teamwork and caregiving at its finest; an image of what it truly means to come together to offer someone who has wanted to remain in her home the best quality of life possible.

At one point in the afternoon, there was a break in the action. My mom walked to her guest bedroom to look out one of her favorite windows. She doesn't go in this room much anymore, but it has a view of the pond that sits in the middle of her quiet neighborhood. She sat on the edge of the bed at first peering out then decided to lie down. I was still in my pajamas and decided to lie down next to her to take a moment to breathe. Lying side by side, she looked at me and said,

I never had a sister to sleep with.

I reminded her that neither have I.

I wasn't expecting a comment like this. We've been roommates the past few years when I've brought her to my house and slept in the same room with her so I can help her find her way to the bathroom during the night. We've reminisced about things when I've tucked her in at night, but this statement was a new one. While laying together for a while that afternoon, we looked through pictures that have been stashed away in the dresser drawers and tablecloths from the closet she and her mother made that she loved to use for dinner parties and holidays. In that moment, nothing else mattered.

A few hours later (I think I had showered by now) a few items were delivered by a home medical equipment company. I needed to sign my name and how I was related to my mom. The delivery guy said he had just delivered some equipment to a home where the daughters were helping, and the daughter who signed the papers added the words, favorite daughter. I laughed out loud and decided to add only daughter after my name. I mean why not. When humor slips in during unexpected times, I will latch on to its lightness.

As evening came, I found myself in the gentle movement of putting up the nativity and decorating my mom's Christmas tree. While she sat in a chair choosing the ornaments she wanted on the tree, two of her caregivers and I (we were doing this in the middle of a shift change) carefully placed them amid the twinkling white lights my mom prefers. With Christmas carols leading the rhythm of this union, I thought, this is what it might be like to have sisters.

My mom asked me to sleep with her that night. This request was a first. It may have been a comfort to her and was a gift to me. As she rested her eyes, I reflected on how we arrived at this moment. A moment where I believe she felt we were sleeping as sisters more than mother and daughter. Over the years, we have laughed, cried, fought, made up, been close, been far apart, lunched together, shopped together, cooked together, traveled together, talked on the phone for hours, hung up on each other, hurt each other's feelings, said I'm sorry, and finally, finally, I love you. In this relationship, I recognize the rose has bloomed larger than its thorns have poked.

I am the youngest and the only. You may be too. Or, you may be the favored, the middle, the oldest, the literal only, and on and on and on. Whatever you are, or think you are, I have a wish for you. I wish you a moment when you can lie not as mother-daughter, father-son, mother-son, father-daughter, grandparent-grandchild, or with the label of any birth order or identity, but as love. Love that is pure. Love that has no intention or expectation but rather the invitation to rest in its unconditional state. Love where you hold the hand of someone through their aging, challenging disease of memory loss, or any disease knowing you are each doing the best you can in the moment of now. Many times a situation isn't comfortable or convenient, and peace seems to live in a distant land. But blessings do appear in the difficulties, and the grace of beauty shines through in the inconvenience. And the light of joy travels in through an unexpected laugh, grin, or person and plays just the right note to harmonize the music when it is most needed.

Who knows if my mom will ever ask me to sleep next to her again because in the morning, with a smile on her face and her eyes lit up like I haven't seen them in a long time, she told me that I snored during the night! Well, all I can say is that maybe this was just the right cord needed for our song.

I hope a ray of peace, joy, laughter, and harmony greets you when you most need it.



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