Monday, March 12, 2012

The Colour of Love

What colour is love? Is it the puffy redness of tear-swollen eyes? Or could it be the pinkish scalp showing through thin white hair as a man bends to kiss his bride of 59 years? Maybe it's the pale shell-shocked look from a granson -- almost a man -- who has no words that fit as Grandma lies in an ICU bed.

"Mother-in-law" is a title for jokes, some humourous, some tasteless, some cruel. Do any of them hint at what this woman means to me -- mother of my bride?

What colour is love? Is it a winter's etching in white? Family members gather from near and far, driving through snow and freezing rain. Hands clasp hers, reaching through tubes and wires. Gentle smiles and silly jokes try to mask the fears so close to the surface.

She is ready. But can we bear to let her go? Her life is a legacy of her love of God. But we, who hold vigil by her side, are not so strong. We acknowledge without apology that we still want her here. We cry out to God, without apology, asking for her healing and restoration.

What colour is love? Can you name a colour for a song in a hospital room? Intensive Care gives incredible family support, but little family privacy. Mom calms as that song reaches through beeps, hums and clicks, as technological wonders monitor medications and oxygen and heartbeat. Do the patients and families on either side of Mom's room also calm. Does the sound reach there -- where others balance between life and eternity, and other families hold vigil?

What colour is love? I've rarely used the word when I've spoken to Mom. But as I've stood or sat at her bedside, I've been astonished at the depth of my ache, the longing to see her strong again. The washed-out blue of a hospital gown, the sterile white of a hospital bed -- these images burn into my mind. The bird-like flutter of a hand waving goodbye (she cannot speak because of the breathing tube). So many little images, impressions, memories.

Why am I so privileged to be part of this family? Why am I so privileged to join in this painful, yet somehow precious vigil? She makes gains each day, but the steps are so small, so slow. I watch family members, emotionally drained and physically weary. The words of love are rarely spoken in my hearing, yet loves whispers, speaks and sometimes shouts in their actions each day.

How do you describe a Great-Grandpa's tears? How do you cope when talk turns to discontinuing life support? The gains seen have come at cost to heart and lungs. Hope, slowly growing, becomes thin again.

What colour is love? When each hour can tip the balance one way or another, while hearts and minds grapple with the reality that this might be good-bye -- how do we share our love with Mom? How do we share our love with Dad and with each other?

A thousand memories paint a rainbow. And yes -- rainbows almost always come in the closing moments of a storm. But they also always come with a promise.


Charles Van Gorkom said...

Well lived, well written, well expressed. Yes, love must be a rainbow. Thank-you for the ending of promise and hope.

Peter Black said...

Brian, thank you for baring your heart and bearing us on your poignant and thoughtful experience of the joyous pain of love, through to the hopeful rainbow of promise.

Eleanor Shepherd said...

Thanks, Brian. This is beautiful and seems to describe what so many of us have been going through.

angelmeg said...

We use the term mother-in-love for our respective moms. My mom started it by calling my sisters' and my husbands her sons-in-love.

Brian Austin said...

Thanks everyone,

Most of the family gathered last night to say their goodbyes. A lot of tears were shed. A lot of prayers were shared. My wife and I spent the night at the hospital.

Somewhere around 3 or 4 AM, Mom's breathing eased. Through the day she continued to improve. By 4 PM they had moved her from ICU to the Surgical ward.

There have been more tears shed this afternoon, but they have been tears of joy and wonder and thanksgiving. She is still very weak, but -- I think if I looked in the right direction I'd see a rainbow.

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