We sat. Together, shoulder-to-shoulder, we faced west; knitting my left hand in hers, she squeezed.
“Why so sad, Nancy? Red sky at night—,”
I finished her words, “sailors’ delight.”
Mom smiled, her eyes luminous. “You’ve got that look honey, like we’ll never be back, or be in this moment again.”
I shifted uneasily on our bench on the pier. The water lapped softly, the road was quiet, and I noticed the glow of the sunset on my sweet mom’s face. The two of us, an intuitive pair, could always sense the struggle in each other.
Earlier, when we had taken a walk down our favorite lane, I had noticed an uneven gate and mom’s struggle with balance. So much so that I had called my younger sister, who was coming up next, warning her not to let mom drive alone with her young kids in the car.
My heart sank.
All was not well
“Mom, you know I always feel this way the night before I leave, like I’ll never get back… ”
“Honey, you know I always watch every sunset up here. When you watch it from home, you’ll know that I’m watching the same masterpiece.”
I withdrew my hand still gripping hers and put it around her left shoulder. “I could do this forever with you Mom— forever.”
I have spent countless dusky nights on the pier up north. That was the first time I remember thinking how fleeting our earthly lives actually are. Sadly, it was also the first time I sensed my mom beginning to say I love you always, but I won’t be on the journey much longer. My strong mom’s memory and physical strength brought way to many falls and dark days. There were moments to treasure, listening to hymns cozied next to me, her agitation disappearing like the sun under the horizon line.
Sadness… right now, the missing is too much today.
We didn’t venture up to Michigan together ever again. But every time the sun sets and I take the time to open my heart, I remember my mom splashing in the giant lake waves, the sweaty July bike rides, and her walking– the long slow walk to her small white cottage nestled in between the oaks.