My mom said to me a few months ago, "This stage of mothering is about preparing you for my death."
It was a reasonable thing to say, even though she's an incredibly fit and healthy 67 year old, because we lost my father in law a year and a half ago, a sudden and devastating loss that his family will wrestle with for many years to come.
It was reasonable for her to say this because, of course, this preparation will take quite a long time.
Then, a week and a half ago, I got a phone call from my mom as she lay in the ER awaiting treatment for what would eventually be discovered to be a perforated appendix. She was heavily medicated but lucid enough to tell me not to come. There was no need. They would just take it out and she could go home.
But it wasn't that easy; there were complications. She's still there. So I went to her on Saturday, just long enough to sit with her, massage her head, and walk slow laps with her around her hospital wing.
No matter how rationally you understand the fragility of our physical bodies, it's a shock to see a parent sick, weak. Mortal.
We like to think we know what to expect, but like a snowstorm before Halloween, we never know what to expect. If we're lucky, we might see things coming a day or two ahead, a forecast, an inkling of the change to come.
If we're really lucky, the change is a small, unexpected storm. The snow will melt tomorrow and the flowers will still be there, underneath.
My mom is teaching me about positivity and humor and how together they create resilience. She's teaching me about mortality. And about letting go.
I guess I could consider this part of that preparation for her death. But I don't want to.
I just don't want to.