My oldest son Aidan and I share a tradition which I care deeply about. I am not sure when it started, but I am at times dismayed by the inevitable end of this tradition.
On the rare evenings when I am home at the boys' bedtime, we read books together as a family. After everyone has had a turn reading, Connor likes to go to his room and have Kate rub his back as he drifts off to sleep. I stay with Aidan and we chat for a bit. After a few moments I will say to Aidan, "Alright son, give me a smooch. It's time to go to sleep." Aidan invariably looks up at me at this point and asks, "Just one more minute, Dad?"
Perhaps it was an inexplicable sense of the impending tragedy that the next day would bring, for when Aidan made this request on Sunday night, I was gripped by it in a way that I had never been before.
I realized that I too wanted "just one more minute."
It was as though I was being devoured by the sense that each minute that I had spent with my mom had been precious, and that they were slipping away.
She passed away on Monday, 7/26/2010. As I watched her take her final breaths, I fought the overwhelming temptation to ask, "Just one more minute, Mom?"
Just one more minute to see you smile.
Just one more minute to hear you laugh.
Just one more minute to be encouraged by you.
Just one more minute to be believed in by you.
Just one more minute to admire you.
Just one more minute for you to love my wife and boys.
Just one more minute to love you.
Just one more minute to be loved by you.
The crushing reality is that just one more minute would never do. That is why Aidan asks night in and night out. He is yet to be satisfied. I know that I would never be satisfied with just one more minute with her. I too would ask again and again.
I am comforted by the beauty of the last minute. She was surrounded by her family. She had spent the previous evening and the morning breathing laboriously. And then my beautiful Aunt Marilyn, a woman that my mom admired and loved beyond explanation, began to read to her. These are the words that Marilyn read:
In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things came into being, not one thing came into being except through him. What has come into being in him was life, life that was the light of men; and light shines in darkness, and darkness could not overpower it. A man came, sent by God. His name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness to the light, so that everyone might believe through him. He was not the light, he was to bear witness to the light. The Word was the real light that gives light to everyone; he was coming into the world. He was in the world that had come into being through him, and the world did not recognise him. He came to his own and his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believed in his name who were born not from human stock or human desire or human will but from God himself. The Word became flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory, the glory that he has from the Father as only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. John witnesses to him. He proclaims: 'This is the one of whom I said: He who comes after me has passed ahead of me because he existed before me.' Indeed, from his fullness we have, all of us, received -- one gift replacing another, for the Law was given through Moses, grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; it is the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known. This was the witness of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, 'Who are you?' He declared, he did not deny but declared, 'I am not the Christ.' So they asked, 'Then are you Elijah?' He replied, 'I am not.' 'Are you the Prophet?' He answered, 'No.' So they said to him, 'Who are you? We must take back an answer to those who sent us. What have you to say about yourself?' So he said, 'I am, as Isaiah prophesied: A voice of one that cries in the desert: Prepare a way for the Lord. Make his paths straight!' Now those who had been sent were Pharisees,
25 and they put this question to him, 'Why are you baptising if you are not the Christ, and not Elijah, and not the Prophet?' John answered them, 'I baptise with water; but standing among you -- unknown to you-- is the one who is coming after me; and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandal.' This happened at Bethany, on the far side of the Jordan, where John was baptising. The next day, he saw Jesus coming towards him and said, 'Look, there is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. It was of him that I said, "Behind me comes one who has passed ahead of me because he existed before me." I did not know him myself, and yet my purpose in coming to baptise with water was so that he might be revealed to Israel.' And John declared, 'I saw the Spirit come down on him like a dove from heaven and rest on him. I did not know him myself, but he who sent me to baptise with water had said to me, "The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and rest is the one who is to baptise with the Holy Spirit." I have seen and I testify that he is the Chosen One of God.' The next day as John stood there again with two of his disciples, Jesus went past, and John looked towards him and said, 'Look, there is the lamb of God.'
37 And the two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. Jesus turned round, saw them following and said, 'What do you want?' They answered, 'Rabbi' -- which means Teacher -- 'where do you live?' He replied, 'Come and see'; so they went and saw where he lived, and stayed with him that day. It was about the tenth hour. One of these two who became followers of Jesus after hearing what John had said was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother and say to him, 'We have found the Messiah' -- which means the Christ-- and he took Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, 'You are Simon son of John; you are to be called Cephas' -- which means Rock. The next day, after Jesus had decided to leave for Galilee, he met Philip and said, 'Follow me.' Philip came from the same town, Bethsaida, as Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, 'We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.' Nathanael said to him, 'From Nazareth? Can anything good come from that place?' Philip replied, 'Come and see.' When Jesus saw Nathanael coming he said of him, 'There, truly, is an Israelite in whom there is no deception.' Nathanael asked, 'How do you know me?' Jesus replied, 'Before Philip came to call you, I saw you under the fig tree.' Nathanael answered, 'Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the king of Israel.' Jesus replied, 'You believe that just because I said: I saw you under the fig tree. You are going to see greater things than that.' And then he added, 'In all truth I tell you, you will see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending over the Son of man.'
While Marilyn read, my mom's breathing eased, she found comfort, and she let go. It was beautiful.
I don't remember a lot of what followed, aside from the overwhelming sense of desolation. I do, however, remember my uncle Mike saying, "When I think of Annie's story, I think it's a success story, due in large part to the people in this room."
Of that there is no doubt. Her story is a success story. And I know that after hearing it told, or reflecting on it, I will always want just one more minute with her.
I love you mom.