• Mathura Hawley

birthday

Updated: Aug 1, 2021


My mother, now sick for almost five years, had given in to the cancer that had spread to her brain, waiting for me to drive through a torrential ice storm up from New York to see my face and say my name one last time before lapsing into a ten day coma. "

My wife and I slept on the floor near my mother’s bed, which had been set up by hospice care in the dining room of the home where she and my father lived since the late 1950’s. This big, mechanical bed sat in the place where each year my mother served her infamous homemade stew to my father and me, the two of us returning from the hunt to find the perfect Christmas tree, my father shaving the trunk down to fit into our wobbly stand and then hoisting it up near the window where she now slept. This is the room where my friend Seri and I would hide in the corner at dinner parties and secretly write down all the curse words the drunk adults were saying, keeping a running tally in Seri’s red notebook. This is the room where I made forts using the dining room tablecloths, where I trained my first puppy to sit, where I made love to my first girlfriend at night after everyone had gone to bed. My mother, now sick for almost five years, had given in to the cancer that had spread to her brain, waiting for me to drive through a torrential ice storm up from New York to see my face and say my name one last time before lapsing into a ten day coma. Her otherwise strong body took its time to shut down, giving us days to cool and stroke her forehead and tell her the things we needed her to know. On this night, we slept lightly, sensing a change in her breathing, then sat at her side into the late hours, each holding one of her hands. After midnight, the energy in the room changed abruptly, her breathing sounding deeper and less frequent, and as we looked over her, she took a long, last breath and left her body. The darkness of the room seemed to lighten, time stopped for a few moments, and a quiet, peaceful joy fell down all around us like invisible snowflakes. She had held on until time crossed slightly over into this cold, December day, her 68th birthday. I smiled, thanking her for passing that sense of poetry on to me, for making me someone who was brave enough to experience the death of his own mother, for my humor, for my intuition, and for my ability to be kind. This is the exact moment I became an adult, when I understood that I would also leave this world someday, that I should find a way to become the gay man my soul told me I was, and that I must always prove to myself that whatever was being shown to me would not go to waste.



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