When my mom was being treated in a southern California hospital for leukemia, I was spending most of my time in Florida. I had become seriously ill from malnutrition and related complications. My father's best friend, my Uncle Jerry (who was neither an uncle by blood or by marriage) and his wife, whom I call my Aunt Ilianna, took care of me. Uncle Jerry was the OBGYN who was present when I was delivered. (My dad actually removed me from my mom's uterus,while Uncle Jerry lifted Matthew out during the Caesarean delivery.) In any event, when my father was very concerned about my health, he called upon his friends Ilianna and Jerry to fly across the country and take me home with them to Florida. He knew that, despite their own four kids they were busy raising, they wouldn't allow me to die. This freed my dad up to focus on my mom and to ensure that she received the very best of care.
About every three or four weeks, I would start to miss my mom. Uncle Jerry and Aunt Ilianna first tried to console me out of my homesickness for my parents, but soon realized that no amount of attention or sympathy was going to cause me not to miss my mother to the point that it made me sicker. They gave in and decided to buy round airplane tickets from Florida to Los Angeles and back once every three weeks. Aunt Ilianna would bundle me up in fresh pajamas and a clean blanket and would carry me onto the plane. I would spend two days in bed with my mom, with dad nearby to remove ne from my mom's bed when medical procedures needed to happen. After two days Aunt Ilianna would dress me in another set of clean pajamas and swaddle me in another clean quilt, and I would return to Florida until it was time for the next two-day visit.
I don't remember a great deal about the visits. Both mom and I were pretty sick and slept much of the time. One thing I do remember is that someone had brought a basket of children's books that sat on a shelf out of reach of my mom's bed. She would ask someone to hand the books to her. One book that I remember her reading to me almost every night was a Robert Munsch book, Love You Forever. It was a bit silly in that a mother went through her son'a entire life with the mother sneaking up by his bed to see if he was really asleep. If he was, she'd pick him up and sing the same lullaby to him each time. Eventually the mother was too old and frail to pick up her son, so he picked her up and sang it to her. Robert Munsh had a set melody in his head for the lullaby, but he said that readers should make it their own and should sing their own melodies. My mom sang it to the Welsh folk song "The Ash Grove."
I can remember being worried if my mom was going to become weak and frail too early in our lives for either Matthew or I to pick her up and hold her as we sang the lullaby to her. It was clearly about the cycle of life, and it reminded me all the more of all of our mortality but especially of my mother's. I wondered why she chose to sing it every night when she had to know (I know now that she couldn't have known) how much it bothered me. Still, I had to hear it each night I was with her. If she didn't choose the book, I did.
I learned not too long ago that Robert Munsch and his wfe hd lost two babies, as my parents had. Although I don't know the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the Munschs' babies, I assumed they were too early to make it as our babies had been. Maybe my mom knew this as well, and perhaps it made he song more personal to her. Then again, maybe she had no idea.
Tonight I was in a pediatric ward, someone had left a basket of books in the room. At the very top of the books was Love You Forever. My mom asked me if I wanted to be read to before I slept. I told her yes, and she chose Love You Forever. I pretended to fall asleep so she would sleep. Then I grabbed my computer to make a few notes. I'm so grateful that my mom made it through leukemia and is still around to read and sing it to me, along with the many other songs she sings and things she does for me when I'm sick and even when I'm not. I'm so lucky to have my mom.