Love … Love …

| By Marina Raye |

The shuttle bus driver made his last call for passengers and started the engine. It looked like another normal two-hour drive from Ft. Smith, Arkansas, to the Tulsa Airport. As the bus sped along Interstate 40, the engine warning light came on. The driver nervously pulled off the road. It was an Oklahoma hot, humid, 105 degrees, with no shade, no breeze, and no service station for miles. Telling the passengers it was nothing to worry about, the driver checked under the hood and called out, “This will take about fifteen minutes and we’ll be on the road again.”

Thirty minutes later the engine started up with no warning light, and a happy driver and his passengers were on their way. “Must have just needed cooling off,” he muttered. But a few minutes later a loud noise erupted from the engine. Bewildered passengers filed off the bus again and began questioning the driver and grumbling about poor service. Others complained loudly about missing their plane connections. One white-haired, bright-eyed woman seemed unperturbed. Going from one passenger to the other, she got acquainted, smiled at the complainers and managed to quiet the most frantic. That was Ma.

Hours later I was still waiting for Ma at the airport where I was scheduled to pick her up for a short visit. How could a bus be lost between Fort Smith and Tulsa? The shuttle company did not know its whereabouts. The backup shuttle was in the shop and the company owner was on vacation. Suddenly my thoughts were interrupted by an 18 wheeler pulling into the passenger unloading zone. Out climbed two women. One pushed past me, dragging and shoving her baggage to the ticket counter. The other, smiling broadly, threw her arms around me and said, “Wait till you hear about my adventure!”

That was Ma in 1985. Until just before her passing at age 100, she worked two volunteer jobs in her retirement village, had a prison ministry and surfed the Internet. She had a kind word for each person she met. Our relationship was not always easy, especially when I no longer subscribed to her religious beliefs. But the love remained constant.

Ma became ill in February of 2004. When she knew I was flying in to see her, she checked herself out of the hospital without telling anyone. She called a driver to return her to her retirement village where the medical staff promptly checked her into the nursing home. The only thing that scared Ma was the thought of prolonged suffering in the nursing home. When I arrived, she was adamant that I get her released to return to her own apartment. I made all the arrangements and was able to accomplish her wish. She was on oxygen, terribly weak and fiercely determined to live or die without ever returning to the nursing home. She made an agreement with me that when she was dying, she would call to say goodbye. We both thought she would recover and have more time. When it was time for my return flight, Ma was able to stand outside her apartment building to see me off. I can still see her waving at me while she leaned heavily on her walker.

Ma is the only one I have known who gave orders to Jesus. A few days after I left, she decided that it was time for her to go to heaven to be with Dad. She called upon Jesus to take her. The nurses and her friends provided her with constant care. They would answer my calls with reports of her slow process of dying. The last week she refused food, water, medicine, and removed her oxygen. When the phone rang late on a Friday night in April, it was Ma. “Marina, I am dying. Goodbye.” I cried into the phone, ”Mama, Mama, wait! I love you.” Her night nurse, Nancy, told me that Ma was not dying yet, but that she was wanting to. I could hear Ma moaning, “Jesus, take me now, take me now.” Then her voice changed. I could barely hear her. It was like a whisper, “Love … Love …” Those were her last words to me. A week later she was gone.

Ma used to tell me that life is never the same when your mother is dead. That is how bluntly she spoke. She was right. My life is not the same. But the memories of her are so thick and so rich. Thank you, Ma. You are the heroine of my life.

Marina Raye is internationally known as the “Feminine Voice of the Native Flute.” Her music is used by many to invoke inner peace and a sense of closeness to nature. Marina and her husband Charlie Oakwind live in Black Mountain where they are building a solar-powered home.

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