She thought back over the years, anxious as her sweet faced mother, her festive Rose of Tralee lay frail and fading beside her. Peace had descended over the room since the music began. She had spent sick days, nights troubled by nameless phantoms, mornings filled with silliness in this room. “Joys and heartbreaks,” she thought as she watched her rapid breathing calm as the next tune began on a Irish harp. She had sat this vigil years ago as a child of ten, the words as smooth as the beads in her fingers dropping away one by one. She knew one day it would be her burden and her honor to sit such a vigil once more. Lately it seemed her father’s fierce protectiveness would take that last, small dignity from her. Thankfully, he couldn’t do it alone. In this moment, he couldn’t do it at all. He had been as strong as he could for so long, but this night was more than he could bear. She was only too glad to take this final responsibility from him. Worn out from two long, emotional days, she cupped her mother’s cool hand in her own and laid her head gently over their joined hands. In spite of herself, she drifted into fitful sleep still holding her mother’s hand like the child she once was.
My mind was clear in the gray dawn. I felt strangely connected to my body and stronger than it had in many years. I rose carefully from the bed, avoiding the places where I knew the floor would creak. Carefully. I didn’t want to wake them, only to visit gently. She heard. I knew she would. Her eyes fluttered open, shadowed in her pale face worn now by exhaustion and the long night. She looked about unseeing, then whispered softly, “It’s okay, Mommy.” Mommy… your girl was grown. Mommy had long ago been abbreviated to Mom. Now she was Mommy once more.
“I know,” she said softly. “It’s time. We’re okay, Daddy and me. He’s an old curmudgeon but he loves us both. We’ll take care of each other now.” This was the end then. I knew as the winter sun began to creep into the sky, that she knew how much I loved her. I knew I could go on, secure, knowing that she and I would carry that love onward. That it would pass from me to her, to her daughter and on until the end of days.