I gave her permission to cry.
Mom, you can cry if you want to.
It was February -- the second month of the second year in the new millennium and just two days before my mother lapsed into her death coma.
“I feel like I want to cry,” she said. Her voice was feeble, anguished.
“Mom, you can cry if you want to. It’s okay if you cry.”
She appeared genuinely surprised by my response. “No one has ever told me that. That it is okay to cry. Never in my whole life.”
She cried then.
She cried over the loss of her husband, my father. Sixteen years earlier, cancer had taken him from us. She cried because the same type of cancer had returned to her house sixteen months ago now intent on stealing her away, too.
She cried over the loss of her eldest son, my brother. In October of 1998, falsely fortified with Jack Daniels, he executed his escape from a decade long battle with mental illness and alcoholism, alone, in a cold, concrete culvert with a mayonnaise jar of gasoline and a pack of matches.
She cried over having to leave her four surviving children.
And her five grandchildren.
And her first great-grandchild – my grandson. He had come into this world just two months before cancer came into hers. She cried with the knowledge that she would not be given the opportunity to watch him grow up.
She cried because she didn’t want to leave.
And because she was afraid of all that might be required in the process of leaving.
She cried because the pain of staying was too much.
We wept together, because she was finally given permission to cry.