We prayed for my mother today in church to honor the anniversary of her death. I wrote this piece a while back, but I think it expresses some of my thoughts on my mother’s passing. I loved her so and miss her.
A Train’s A-Coming
A train is a means of conveyance that moves on a track from one place to another. Passengers wait on a platform before departing for their destinations.
My mother lay in her hospital room, dying. I sat in the darkened room while she slept. I didn’t want to leave her. I didn’t want her to leave me. I had come to Texas from California for our last Christmas together and here we were in this quiet impersonal room, her rhythmic breathing the only sound. Her condition was worsening after she’d elected to stop all chemotherapy for the oat cell carcinoma that was spreading in her lungs. I didn’t blame her for that decision; quality of life seemed a reasonable wish. I was due to return to California after the holidays with my three children and husband. It would be another month before I could come back. I doubted she had another month in her.
The Chambers Brothers’ song, ‘People Get Ready’ began playing in a loop in my brain.
People get ready
There’s a train a-coming
You don’t need no baggage
You just get on board
All you need is faith
To hear the diesel humming
Don’t need no ticket
You just thank the Lord
Over and over that song played in my mind until I finally understood. It didn’t matter if I stood on the train tracks with my arms stretched wide, that train was coming for my mother and was going to move right through me and keep on going. This train wasn’t stopping for anybody, including a grieving daughter who didn’t know how she’d make it without her mama.
That image and that song brought me peace. This was bigger than I was, bigger than my grief. That train had departed from the station long before I was born and had a destination and timetable independent of my existence. I felt my shoulders relax as I sat there, knowing that my role was a minor one at this point. My mother knew how much I loved her.
The next time I saw Mom was three weeks later as she lay in a coma. I stood at her bedside along with others who loved her, each of us midwives to the next world. We all laid our hands upon her and muttered whatever words came to mind. After a short while, I leaned close and whispered in her ear, “Go to Jesus, Mama. He’s waiting.” She turned, took her last breath, and stared straight into my eyes.
I could hear the clickety-clack of that train as it headed on down the track.