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First heartbeat. Final breath. Two memories locked in time.

He was by my side for the first. We stared together at the tiny beating flashes of light on the monitor in front of us. I was unaware that he held me as our eyes gazed at the screen. We gasped. A wonder of wonders. Life. Joy unspeakable. So unexpected, we were expecting.

“Should we try to have a child?” I had asked my husband just months earlier. I was giddy with excitement. Was it possible? We were older. Highly improbable. But it happened. A miracle.

“I am concerned by the lack of cardiac activity,” the doctor said as she rolled her magic camera across my stretched skin.

“Playing hide and seek are you?” I asked my little one. We had a secret language. “Move the camera.” I told the doctor, unable to grasp the situation. “I know you’ll find it…the heart….beat…..”

Todd squeezed my hand then. My eyes searched his and we poured our grief into each other. Our love.

Life on earth begins and ends with a beat. Enters in and departs with a breath. I find it ironic that my memories of loss pulse through me with such a force of life.

“It’s time to tell the story about your mother. I don’t want to overlook it.” Dad finally said the words I’d been waiting to hear.

He had told me I shouldn’t rush it. He had been correct in encouraging me to wait. We had more to tell about life before I could write about Mom’s final breath.

But now that the time is here, I wonder if it can be captured in words. The seven days of heaven. That’s what we call Mom’s last seven days on earth—the witnessing of her rapture in the midst of her suffering.

On Sunday mornings, we would always wake to the sound of her music. Sometimes she’d be practicing for the church services; other times she’d be playing the piano and singing to fill her spirit. Worship. A roast would often be in the oven and you could already smell the French onion soup she would use to flavor it. Like gathering for family holidays with the preparations of special meals for loved ones, these days were holy days.

I imagine heaven that way… music filling the air, and indescribable aromas—sweet, rich, satisfying—from the preparation of special meals.

The long table was set delicately in white. Vases of brightly colored wildflowers were set between the plates and goblets. The table extended across the main room of the mansion that had been prepared for her. It stretched out through a set of breathtakingly tall glass doors reflecting the colors of the flowers, then across a field surrounded by bridals wreath, lilac bushes and apple trees.

The ceiling high overhead was designed with large clear glass arches, set between giant beams of cedar. As the light streamed in, it created rainbow patterns of color across the gleaming floor beneath her feet.

Her breath, once again, deep and sustaining. The air was filled with the aroma of a meal being prepared. Herbs…melted butter…….cinnamon. The sound of voices and instruments softly echoed throughout the vast space. There was a piano that she could now play with strong fingers, free of pain.

His arms had already embraced her. She was taking it all in when, suddenly, she saw their faces.

It was the last Sunday in October, 2011 and Mom woke up wanting cinnamon-sugared Morning Buns. The seven days to come would be unexpected Holy days.

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