I found my seat on the plane, between two already seated passengers. The man in the aisle seat got up and said, "Can I put that in the overhead for you?" nodding to my weighty backpack, and I gratefully accepted his offer. "And what about your coat, shall I put that up there too?" he asked. His accent was English, so not one of the" Newark Nice," but the trend was continuing. Are people praying? I think so! :)
The flight was comfortable and I slept for several hours. The time flew by and in no time we had landed and I had cleared passport control. I found my suitcase on the baggage carousel and gave thanks to God that it had made all the right connections.
The Birmingham morning was as sunny as Newark had been. It was 7.30 a.m. when I rounded the corner of the arrivals corridor and walked out towards the line of waiting welcomers. From not far away I saw a hand waving at me, and Rob's smiling face, followed by John, my nephew not far behind. A big hug each were filled with more feelings than words could ever express. We were family; together; walking a journey that being together made so much easier.
The drive from the airport to Alvechurch, through the rolling hills of Worcestershire, always beautiful; had never been as lovely. The soft green meadows, the sun shining through an early morning mist, made me think of Robert Browning's famous poem,Oh,To Be In England , even though this is March and not April.
It felt as though Alvechurch had rolled out a special welcome mat of beauty as we entered the village and soon, drove intoTanyard Close. Seeing the windows of Mum's flat and knowing that she wasn't inside was hard, but I knew that the hardest part would be going in, and rounding the corner from the hallway to her sitting room, where she would always be waiting. That was always my first action, to go there and hug her. It took my breath away to do it.
Rob had left some things, some very important things, just as she left them. Her cushion and little leg blanket looked as though they were waiting for her to come back.
Rob and John were a little behind me unloading the case and back pack, but as they caught up with me they saw and understood my tears at the empty place left behind by someone we all loved so very much.
I found the T.V. Guide, folded and put by Mum between the two seat cushions on her couch on the last day I spoke with her, February 20th; Family Day in Canada. Mum was always methodical and had a place and routine for everything. It was a characteristic that supported her in the disabilities she lived with in the last years of her life. At a certain time in the evening she would turn the page of the T.V. Guide to the next day's page, fold it and put it down between the cushions, where she could find it the next day. She would neatly fold Kleenex tissues into squares and put them on the tray of her trolley so that they would be near at hand if needed in the night.
The next morning though, Mum's carers called Rob and told him that she didn't want to get out of bed, and she stayed there for four days until Saturday, when Rob and I together made the decision that he should call the paramedics to take Mum to hospital as she had been unable to drink for three days.
The fact that Monday had been Family Day in Canada and I had called her on a day between our normal Saturday calls meant that I surprised Mum with an extra call. I had asked her as always, how she was, and she replied with characteristic determination in her voice, "Oh, I am well, thank you." Of course she was becoming unwell, but God gave me a very precious gift in the timing of that call in between Saturdays, for it was the last time I would hear her voice.
She spent the next ten days in hospital, with Robert there each day. She was comfortable, and not in pain. Her death certificate says that she died of pneumonia and kidney failure, but she was tired and gently drifted away.
Rob had folded up Mum's loaned hospital bed for pick up, and brought down another bed into her room for me to use. So I don't have to pull out the couch and make up a bed each night on this trip. Her room looks so different.
Bruce made sure that I felt very welcome and remains a constant joy and comfort to Rob. I believe that dogs are God's special agents. He did his best to fill Mum's spot on the couch!