My Mother’s Eyes

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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A cold Boston breeze rushed as I drove from the airport to a hospital to be with my eighty-year-old mother. One week earlier her life was a simple routine. Then came a heart attack followed by smaller attacks every three to four hours. Now her one chance of survival was a quadruple bypass. The family understood that death was likely.

My sisters were exhausted from two sleepless nights. I persuaded them to rest and anchored myself in cardiac intensive care as the nurses prepped my mother for surgery. When the nurses finally walked out of the room, my mother’s eyes turned to me. She said, “I’m scared,” and the spiking pulse and blood pressure monitors echoed her fear.

“What are you scared of?”

“Of not waking up.”

I looked at her. My mother’s life was driven by loss and fear.

“You will wake up,” I ventured, “on one side or the other. But I think the issue is to fully awaken, to be consciously alive here, or in spirit.”

In a whisper she said, “I don’t know how to do that.”

I went to the window, raised the shade, and moonlight streamed in. For the next two hours my mother and I talked about her life. We reviewed it, confronted regrets, and thought hard about risks untaken. Then I asked her to close her eyes.

“You know,” I said, “right now you are being held by the same arms that have always held you. We just don’t see them. They are the only arms that give life, on either ‘side.’ If you can sink back into them, it will be okay. Their power is real and inside you. If tomorrow is your day to die, and you’re sunk into that power, you won’t suffer. You’ll just go. And if it’s your day to live, you’ll have landed inside the center of a stream of healing love that transforms the world.”

My mother nodded. For an hour I spoke softly to her about that inner power. Then my eye caught the monitors. Her blood pressure and pulse registered normal. She slept peacefully until the next morning.

On Good Friday, my mother’s heart received four new arteries and one new carotid artery. The surgeon had predicted she would barely awaken before Saturday afternoon, but one sister and I decided to be there on Saturday morning anyway. We tiptoed into her recovery cubicle prepared to see tubes, respirators, and a prone patient. But there sat my mother, in a chair, upright, her face lit with a wild passion. She looked straight into my eyes, half-laughing, half-crying. “I had to do this,” she cried. “I had to. I found the power! I found it!”

Intensive care dismissed her within hours. The nurses called her their poster child. Her recovery speed exceeded patients’ decades younger. I still look at her with disbelief.

Now, to remember that the power within us is real, I look into my mother’s eyes.