The gentle but firm tug on my scrub pants stopped me half way across the room. I looked down into a beautiful pair of dark eyes that searched mine, needing answers. I had already gone over pain control options, which Marisa desperately needed but her question took me by surprise.
“If you were my mother, what would you say to me?”
Her eyes flashed with desperation. I took a breath and set my clipboard down, taking a seat next to her. I had heard Marisa’s sad story in report. Age 34, end stage ovarian cancer that had metastasized (spread) to bone, liver and possibly brain. Pain control had been a challenge and she had been up most of the night, with her two sisters taking turns trying to soothe her restless soul. At times she had been difficult to restrain, climbing out of bed, lunging towards the door, delusional. Now she was exhausted, yet like so many people I have seen at the final lap of life, she was frightened and angry, like a trapped animal.
I had met her sister in the kitchen making tea and she told me the story, how Marisa had been such a beautiful young woman, the life of the party, known for her outrageous shoes and dancing skills. Looking at her now, I tried to imagine that girl beneath the gaunt face, the yellow skin and swollen belly. She had beautiful long black hair and I could see her fixing it in braids or with colorful barrettes and strapping on a pair of high heels before heading into the night.
Her question might have thrown me but it didn’t. First of all, I could’ve been her mother, and secondly, I have learned throughout my years of raising three sons that I don’t have much to offer in the way of bright ideas. Truthfully, I had plenty of not-so-bright ideas. My own mother was incredibly insecure in her ability to mother correctly so I had large lapses in parenting skills. She taught me how to bake real southern biscuits and made me swear to never give away the secret… and I knew how to iron everything. So other than a fierce maternal love that came free with each child’s delivery, I was pretty clueless.
Yet my sons would tell you that there was one thing I did know and one thing I could give, far more precious that any earthly wisdom or rich inheritance. I could point them to Jesus and tell them that He would be there, without wavering, through every circumstance, meeting every need, big and small and providing an answer, His answer. Not bad. And they will also tell you mama was right.
So for this dying young woman to tug at my clothes and plead with me, If you were my mother… I had an answer. There are occasional windows of God-ordained opportunity in life and this was one. After several minutes, Marisa, the sister and I were all weeping and laughing together. Later they would rest, undisturbed and there was a familiar peace in the room each time I went in. Marisa had found the way home.
I never saw her again. I know she died fairly soon after our time together. But I like to think of her in heaven, free from a body of pain and death, maybe dancing like never before.
“Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped.”Psalm 124:7.
For her hard question, I had an easy answer.