You really can’t take the mom out of anyone. I saw an example of this very clearly this week. We have a woman in her 30’s here with cervical cancer. It’s been one of the tougher things for me to come in each day and visit with her about her cancer and about her girls. Ellie is 7 and Zoey is 2. There are pictures plastered all over the walls here at the “house”. Sometimes in the afternoons, I hear the girls running around in the halls, being admonished by grandparents to keep quiet.

Kindra, my patient, has really been in and out of it, asleep most of the time. Part of this is to escape the hard reality of dying so young. She talked to me earlier this week in one of her more awake times about the girls. “Zoey isn’t going to miss me, I mean she’ll miss me in the way people miss the idea of things, the idea of a mother, but not really me. It’s Ellie I really worry about. I know she’ll miss me so much. I worry their dad will take his grief out on them, won’t be patient with them.” I thought, as I was scrunched on the corner of her bed listening, how unthinkably hard this must be. What must be harder… knowing your child won’t remember you or knowing your child will?

After that talk she spent the next several days in a deep sleep, enough to make everyone concerned that she was getting close to dying. That is until today. Suddenly out of a deep coma she arose, sat up and wanted to spend time with her girls. She got up to a wheelchair and was pushed around for a few minutes. And then, like only a mother could do, she wanted to clip her girls fingernails.

There in her wheel chair, pale with dark circles around her eyes she sat, almost skin and bones. Each girl one at a time climbed into her lap so mom could clip those nails and get them clean. Such a little thing, but spoke volumes.

She went back to sleep later, maybe not to awake again. But for a time, she mustered up her strength to take care of unfinished business. Isn’t it those little things moms do each day that make them moms? There’s not a more symbolic gesture as that…

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