I walked to the nursing home with a boom box in my back pack and a sprig of dried lavender in my pocket. That is what I could give my mother on what turned out to be her last Christmas.
At the end of her life, she was demented and paralyzed and nourished with a gastric feeding tube. Her final stroke took her swallow function and ability to speak. Some people would say that is a life not worth living. In her presence, though, I was always reminded of Emerson’s simplest statement of faith: “I believe in the still small voice.” Her serenity and acceptance of her body then gave me one more lesson in the awesome dignity of living life out however it unfolds.
With one moveable hand, my mother remembered how to take the lavender and raise it to her nose to smell. She knew it came from her own herb garden. Her face responded brilliantly to the scent. This is how we conversed.
When I played Luciano Pavarotti’s “O Holy Night” on the boom box, I wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming emotion of the line “Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!” That’s what I did, weeping at her bedside.
That’s what I do now, and every December, when I am prepared to listen to hear her blessing.