I fought back tears as I crossed the room to her hospital bed. Reaching for her hand, I said, "mom, are you okay?"
She answered softly, "oh yes baby, I'm okay. But, I'm worried about my doctor."
Astonished, I answered, "why?".
She replied, "my doctor just came in here and told me the brain tumor is malignant and that I have 5 months to live. He told me I am terminal. I could tell by the look on his face that he has no idea that he is terminal too."
Seeing my confused look, my mother took my hand and began to explain. She said, "my doctor believes he has given me some brand new information. The truth is that I have known all my life that I am terminal. You see, the day you are born and take your first breath you are on your way to taking your last breath. So, my sweet child, you are also terminal. Each of us has an existence that is precious, unique and unpredictable in length. The wisdom of knowing you are terminal will allow you many freedoms. It is my hope that you will live each of your days with more smiles than tears."
I stood there in complete awe of my wonderful mother so filled with wisdom. Her name was Ethel and she died exactly five months and five days after that day. She was an uneducated housewife and mother who was poor and mistreated most of her life. Yet she found joy in the midst of misery and never failed to share her joy with others. She never complained, never held a grudge and was never bitter. Her special way of looking at life sustained her through her life and through her death.
One morning, near the end of her life, I asked her what time she had awakened. She smiled a huge brilliant smile and replied, "I think the sunshine came through the window about 6:30 and kissed me on the cheek." Whenever I think of my wonderful mother, I smile a lot and I miss her a lot.