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July 2013, vol 9, no 2

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Donna Buck

Special Water

"Sur le pont d'Avignon
L'on y dance, l'on y dance
Sur le pont d'Avignon
L'on y dance tout on rond."
(children's French folk song)

She has chosen home hospice. The hospital bed nearly fills the living room. A noisy fan tries to cool the heavy air. "It's me, mom," I announce and take her hand. She surprises me by opening her eyes. A caregiver tells me she's been non-responsive all day.

"Soon," she says. She waves her arms, picks at the bedding. "Mama!" she calls. I ask her if her mother is near and she nods. Her gaze is focused on those she alone can see. She hums a phrase from a French folk song. She is visiting again at her Quebecois grand-pere's farm. Who am I to question her vision?

No longer childless, I have become her mother. There are so many ways to fail her. What if the caregiver forgets again to give her the morphine? What is she can't make it until the grandkids come? She asks for communion. Arrangements fall through. I can bring only a container of holy water blessed by my hometown priest.

I quench her thirst now from a dropper. "Is this special water?" she asks. She reminds me again. "Soon."

"OK, Mom. I'm going to anoint you now." Blessing her, I cross her forehead with the special water. It's a sacrilege, I know; I'm not a priest.

Last rites. My right as a mother.

crepe myrtle blossoms
flurry of pink kites
in an autumn breeze