Verandah in Mourning

I’ve been away from the verandah for awhile. The weather was a little too chilly or rainy for any verandah sitting so I just stepped out to collect the mail or grab a few random breaths of fresh air as spring ambled her way into the neighborhood. Then one day in mid-March my mother had a blackout fall & broke her hip. Such a common & frequent old age accident, I wonder how it can ever be avoided as people approach their 80′s & 90′s.

The surgery to repair the broken bones went very well & now we figured that we would just wait for her to begin therapy & recover in time to celebrate her 92nd birthday. However, time had another plan & so the rest of March to mid April was spent waiting for her to recover &/or planning for her not to recover. There were hospital visits that were encouraging & some visits that were heartbreaking,especially the day they had to cut her wedding band off of her swollen finger. Our father had passed in 1966 & she wore that band faithfully. In my heart this was an invisible turning point. She looked meaningfully into my eyes & gave it to me while she said that it was mine to keep in her new whispery sort of voice. 

The phone calls to & from my hometown were just as confusing. Some days she was improving & then as the weeks flitted by the news became not as promising.

Then early one morning that final awaited dreaded news jolted me awake, my brother called to say that she had finally gone. I got up from my bed, went to the computer & wrote the emails to friends & family members who lived out of town. I tried to go back to bed but sleep was not an option & thoughts & memories crowded into my bedroom making it impossible to remain in that space. I was sobbing. That kind of deep, can’t catch your breath sobbing that you never think happens in real life, just in the movies.That kind of sobbing that completely empties your heart but not your tear ducts.

I got up again, grabbed a robe & a stiff triple shot drink & ventured out to the verandah. My apartment didn’t seem large enough to contain my grief & I didn’t care if the other tenants or neighbours saw me, I just needed to sit on the verandah & cry. And cry I did in that muted grey pre-dawn air. But then a strange thing happened. It was around 4:30 AM & night & dawn were just beginning to trade places. The air was not as cold as I had expected but it was still chilly. The trees had just begun to bud, crocuses were blooming as well as the little white snowdrops & maybe a single daffodil but the most amazing thing was that the  air was filled with birdsong. I didn’t even know the birds were back from their winter hiatus.

I reduced my sobbing to a steady trickle of tears down my cheeks & looked around. The air was clear & cool & there were birds flying everywhere. No other human was around, not even a car on any of the roads. There was just bird song. They flew from tree to tree with melodies trilling after them & around them.  There were robins, bluejays, cardinals, sparrows, chickadees & crows. An orchestra of chirps, twitters, caws & coos that all blended into a symphony of dawn breaking. This was a peek at life’s church & its early morning services.

They sang loudly & freely, each allowing the other a space for their individual songs & yet it was a group performance.  Slowly night lifted & the sun made it’s tentative appearance in a glow of red & orange. The sky streaked in heavenly shades of blues,greys, oranges, reds, purples & pinks. When dawn was fully born & the night had quietly retreated there were a few moments, I can’t tell how many, when the birds stopped singing & far away in a distance I heard the tinkle of a little bell & I knew that my mother had traversed the road of light & finally crossed over to be with her husband & family on the other side. This path of her journey was finally completed. Just like that Christmas movie,each time a bell rings an angel gets it wings. I don’t know if that happened, but I do know it signaled to me the end of her journey & that she was at peace & happy. 

My tears did not stop, my heart was still raw with that empty space of losing the immediate sense of parental love but there was a new sense of peace & purpose which settled in my inner core & my silly old verandah held me in it’s embrace just a little tighter & just a little longer with dawn suspended until the birds began to sing again & I could go back inside & allow life to take its course.

This verandah has seen parties, heard private conversations, shared laughter, been the scene of meals, snacks, photographs, all kinds of get togethers It has been a place of reflection, creativity & observation, love, hugs & friendship of all kinds.  No matter where else I may roam or live I will always be thankful for having this verandah space when I truly, truly needed an invisible shoulder to weep on & invisible arms absorb my heartache. 

I always knew verandahs were special places, we had an understanding ever since my first one.  wink, wink!