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mom's hospital bed

Judy Fox
March 6, 2016

It was just a simple gesture; a simple movement with regard to my mother’s hospital bed that still sits in the middle of her bedroom eight months after she died. What happened is the bed level moved from a high queenly position to a normal height making it much easier to get in and out of it. That was all, but that change “set off’ an unusual response from me and a subsequent contemplation. Let me backtrack a bit. A good friend of mine, Margaret, had been visiting me for a few days down in Florida in my mom’s home where I have been staying for over a month. I was happy to see her and also to share in a small way my mom’s home that is so filled with her love of beauty - her paintings, sculptures and collaged and painted cigar boxes in every corner of one’s sight, photos of family and my mother’s light touch for interior design blending with the Floridian vegetation.

So the hospital bed was gotten after my mom had a stroke and could not walk anymore and where, as time progressed, she felt most comfortable. This was her domain and life happened in and around her. Pat, her trusted and caring nurse’s Aide, always kept the bed high so my mom could be easily washed, cared for and fed and it stayed high unless mom had to go to the bathroom. It was also where I often would lift myself up and literally crawl in on my side (the bed is quite narrow) and lay next to my mom; we would cuddle, laugh, talk and just lie quietly together. Since my mom died, I did not want to get rid of her bed…somehow it meant something to me to have it still there. I often will lie on her bed to read or watch television. Also Mica, who cleaned my mom’s home once a week for many years and loved my mom like family always goes, when she periodically visits, directly to mom’s hospital bed, now empty, but still with the same blankets and pillows, and pays her respect

The other evening my friend, Margaret decided to lower the hospital bed so it would be more or less as a normal bed and she could easily get in and out of it as she watched TV with me. It made perfect sense but I noticed in myself an initial response of not wanting the bed to be lowered as if it would somehow take my mom further away. It didn’t seem right to move it. When my friend, Margaret noticed this outward hesitation, she asked me if it was alright to do this and I said, “Yes.” How could one say no to what seemed so insignificant, but inside I didn’t like it.

Since then, I have left the bed lowered and I have been realizing that something changed. What is it? Just by adjusting the level of the bed from high to low made the whole look of the room more normal. The bed no longer stands out so much nor does it feel like it’s empty, missing something or someone. And on further contemplation, it’s almost another movement in myself of saying good-bye to my mom or maybe more accurately good-bye to that phase in our life together – the three years where mom could no longer walk and it got harder and harder for her emotionally. It was not always an easy time for either of us…at times mom had difficulties and I found it difficult to bear her suffering and yet there was so much love and moments and more than moments of such treasured joy that I will never forget.

So since my mother’s hospital bed has lowered, it feels and looks to me less like a hospital bed or the one where my mom lived in for three years. In a mysterious way I think it points to a lessening or fading of some of the emotional intensity of grieving. And it’s not that I have in any way forgotten my mom or still not miss her very much but that lowered hospital bed to a “normal” bed seems to reflect this subtle shift. Interesting to see how the outer can reflect and influence the inner workings of one’s being. Grieving really is a process and one that I continue to contemplate.

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