This is from my play “Saints & Hysterics” and posted for my mother, Leni, who died 17 years ago today.
It was the night of the summer solstice, a total eclipse of the full moon the night my mother died. As they wheeled her calmly to intensive care, she was scribbling notes on a yellow pad, things to be said that the ventilator would not allow.
“I found a picture for you Mama in an antique store.” I said, trying to cheer her in her naked state. “It’s a picture of Jesus and Mary.”
Grabbing her pad she writes, “Is it autographed?”
“No, but it will be.” I think to myself and I know reads my thought.
That was the last I heard from her, her final missive.
A shadow creeps over the moon as her trinity gathers around her.
We are laughing and telling funny stories while she floats in her semi-coma, saying good by to a world she’d grown so fond of. My brother asks if she can hear us and she squeezes his hand. Three times this query; three times this response.
Then her systems start to shut down, one by one. She doesn’t smell of lilies but of honeysuckle, the sweet and sickly fragrance of summer nights and death.
One celestial body now completely obscures the other.
I walk out into the darkness to gaze at the mystical moon and smoke.
I light chains of cigarettes and Hail Mary’s, watch my prayers and smoke rise up, as soon my mother will. Tears fall like heavy water from my eyes, I understand her TV tears from many years ago and what she meant about her moment for this was mine. I wait for the slow-motion sword of sorrow to pierce my heart and make it bleed. I think of Mary, the Mother of God, and ask for a moment of her time to thank her for the life of my mother, Mother of my life. I pray that she will guide her journey home and ask for her grace to guide me. I give her back.
A sliver of light creeps out from the moon.
Crushing out the embers of my final cigarette— it is time.
The staff is hesitant to let us all in, “Only two at a time, those are the rules.”
But we are the children of Leni and there are no rules. Three souls came through her into this life, three will see her safely out.
Soft sound of heart monitor.
My brother takes her right hand; my sister takes the left.
I cradle the halo of her head and I whisper in her ear—
Deep into her soul as she has done so many times to mine.
Our Lady speaks along with her, quietly audible.
“It’s okay, Pinky, all will be well.
Flatline. Silence. Beat. Lights shift.
I see my mother’s hands in the veins of my own; hear her blood, coursing through them.
I know she is my backbone with her ever-present echo.
Shoulders back, stomach in, head up straight.
I slip off the jacket from an old 33. It starts with a rumba, and we dance.
And all is well. All is very well.