“How’s your mother?”
“Fine, thank you, baruch Hashem,” I answer with the smile I’ve learned to paste on, though my mother has been in the hospital on a respirator for four years.
For the uninitiated, this means that for four years my mother has been unable to talk to us; she can only listen. With the balance problems she has, she hasn’t been able to walk or stand, so she’s been bedridden the entire time. Artificially fed, she hasn’t had food or drink touch her lips for the entire period, if you don’t count the time my brother secretly dabbed Kiddush wine on her lips, or the times we squeezed a damp sponge into her mouth.
And yet, so typical of Mom, she has never complained.
No, my mother is not unconscious, though each new member of the hospital staff doesn’t truly believe us, because Mom is asleep much of the time nowadays. Inevitably, there is one evening when Mom is awake, and with her bright green eyes wide open, she smiles graciously at the new nurse, who is genuinely shocked.
In our hearts, we struggle between declaring this is no way to live, and realizing that yes, this is a way to live because this is what Hashem has decided. I look for comfort, try to understand why Mom has to suffer so much. One rabbi tells me that my mother is a pure soul, unable to sin in any way, rising higher and higher until she receives her ultimate reward. I can connect to that. But I can’t stop the tears from welling up.
I know there’s a reason. I know this is what must be. There’s also a reason why we, her children, have been ordained to participate in this unreal reality. We, who drink aromatic cups of coffee, who enjoy a good Yom Tov meal, who have the gift of speech and can tell each other our thoughts; is my mother’s condition not a message for us as well? How could we have taken This World for granted?
There have been many medical crises along the way. Days and days when Mom didn’t wake up at all, and in our hearts we were sure this was all coming to an end. We were called to the hospital to hear the morbid forecasts, only to find Mom back with us a week later, as if nothing had happened.
At first the doctors had explanations, but by now they look heavenward and admit they don’t understand. And we’ve come to realize that Hashem very clearly wants her to live, each and every time.
(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 643)
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