Her smile arrived first with the pungent odor of the nursing home hallway wafting in her wake.
My mother’s daily angel cloaked in the blue scrubs of a paid-by-the-hour nurse’s aide.
Transporting morning meds, a first cup of coffee and the Montgomery Advertiser, she arrived before dawn to serve my mother.
I was peripheral not primary in my mother’s life so I don’t know Maxine’s back story.
What I do know is the abiding love they shared.
In an institutional setting, maintaining an established routine is paramount. But small moments of daily connection often transform into the sacred. Unwrapping the straw, she offered a lip-burning sip flowing from a styrofoam chalice. Starting the day with Maxine was my mother’s soul-soothing communion.
After handing my mother the blue tote bag that always hung from the bedpost, Maxine slipped out to serve other patients.
In the bag was a Bible, the latest issue of the Upper Room and a few tissues.
As the sunrise slipped around the drawn curtains, my mother started her day in an established order.
Finish the coffee.
Pick up the telephone to dial or answer.
Of course I still remember the number.
At 6 a.m. CST, 7 a.m. EST, in those days I was juggling babies, breakfast and a distracted mindset.
But from the window side half of an Alabama nursing home room to my kitchen in an Atlanta suburb, we connected.
Most every week day, I was next on her to-do list.
In her final days, our world receded to a private room in a Montgomery hospital.
With blinds drawn, chairs pulled up close, we loved on my mother.
Her sisters, a brother, my cousins, me and my sister were all there to bear witness to her passing.
Others stopped by.
My mother kept asking for her.
She cracked the door and that wide smile walked in.
I’ll never forget the love I saw in my mother’s eyes as Maxine pulled up close to her bed.
Emotion exchanged in midair with no words that I can recall. As my mother’s body relaxed, her earth-bound angel delivered a hug and a whispered farewell.
My nest is empty.
My mama is gone.
But early mornings remain sacred in my daily routine.
As I as rise, I whisper a prayer, sip my coffee and scan the headlines. And across eternity, I sense my mama’s love as the sunrise beckons us into a new day.