Reading to Mom

December 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

My mother died on November 23. Her last week had been particularly harsh. She couldn’t speak, but we could tell from her expressions that she could hear what we were saying, and so we thought it would be a good idea to read to her at her bedside for comfort.

She had always enjoyed reading, mostly mysteries and romances: Danielle Steele, Barbara Cartland, Michael Palmer. She read these on a Nook that allowed her to enlarge the font.

I found a copy of Little Women in her nightstand at home. It was a Boston Globe Family Classics edition, low-priced hardcover, that someone from her church must have given to her, as the bookmark was printed with a calendar of church events. From the position of the bookmark I would guess that she hadn’t got through much of the story. But it seemed a suitable choice: a book that I knew to be about family, faith, absence, and uncertainty, and one I figured she wouldn’t have trouble following, if she could understand that much.

We didn’t get very far in the book before she died, only to the middle of Chapter 2, where the girls put on Jo’s play on Christmas night:

Out came Meg, with grey horse-hair hanging about her face, a red and black robe, a staff, and cabbalistic signs upon her cloak. Hugo demanded a potion to make Zara adore him, and one to destroy Roderigo. Hagar, in a fine dramatic melody, promised both, and proceeded to call up the spirit who would bring the love philtre:

‘Hither, hither, from my home,
Airy sprite, I bid thee come!
Born of roses, fed on dew,
Charms and potions canst thou brew?

‘Bring me here, with elfin speed,
The fragrant philtre which I need;
Make it sweet and swift and strong,
Spirit, answer now my song!’

A soft strain of music sounded, and then at the back of the cave appeared a figure in cloudy white, with glittering wings, golden hair, and a garland of roses on its head. Waving a wand, it sang:

‘Hither I come,
From my airy home,
Mar in the silver moon.
Take this magic spell,
And use it well,
Or its power will vanish soon!’

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