Many say their most painful moments are saying good-bye to those they love. After watching Cheryl, my daughter-in-law, through the six long months her mother suffered towards death, I think the most painful moments can be in the waiting to say good-bye. Cheryl made the two-hour trip over and over to be with her mother. They spent the long afternoons praying, soothing, comforting, and retelling their shared memories.
As her mother's pain intensified and more medication was needed to ease her into sedation, Cheryl sat for hours of silent vigil by her mother's bed.
Each time she kissed her mother before leaving, her mother would tear up and say, "I'm sorry you drove so far and sat for so long and I didn't even wake up to talk with you."
Cheryl would tell her not to worry, it didn't matter, still her mother felt she had let her down and apologized at each good-bye until the day Cheryl found a way to give her mother the same reassurance her mother had given to her so many times.
"Mom, do you remember when I made the high school basketball team?" Cheryl's mother nodded. "You'd drive so far and sit for so long and I never even left the bench to play. You waited for me after every game and each time I felt bad and apologized to you for wasting your time." Cheryl gently took her mother's hand.
"Do you remember what you would say to me?"
"I would say I didn't come to see you play, I came to see you."
"And you meant those words, didn't you."
"Yes, I really did."
"Well, now I say the same words to you. I didn't come to see you talk, I came to see you."
Her mother understood and smiled as she floated back into sleep.
Their afternoons together passed quietly into days, weeks, and months. Their love filled the spaces between their words. To the last day they ministered to each other in the stillness, love given and received just by seeing each other.
A love so strong that, even in this deepened silence that followed their last good-bye, Cheryl can still hear her mother's love.