By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Circle of life follows uneasy road
Placeholder Image

The enchanting medley and moving lyrics from the Broadway play, “Lion King” tell a story we all will recognize sooner or later.

“It’s the Circle of Life
... It moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love ...”

My sister, Donna, and I have been sitting for several days with mama at her hospital bedside. She’s 91 and not-so-strong anymore but she’s been our constant sunshine. There, every day, shining sweetly. Some days harder than others, of course, but this is a woman whose favorite saying is: “I’m tough.”

Through amazing struggles that could have broken strong men, much less a petite woman, she’s kept her head high. Stolen at birth, she was in her 40s before years of searching discovered her real parents. They’d been tricked into believing she’d died as an infant. It was a fleeting reunion before death snatched them away. Her first husband was lost to alcoholism. Poverty separated her from my brother and sister. Her oldest son died tragically at 41. Alzheimer’s took my father in the crest of their golden years. Life-long friends die, one-by-one.

It’s the Circle of Life.

Through it all, she grieves, but keeps looking ahead. She’d seldom miss a day reading the newspaper’s obits.

“My name hasn’t been here yet,” she once said in a puzzled tone, “and I have no idea why.”

Nine-plus decades are wearing, though. Her hearing is virtually gone. As an 80-year-old, she could still break into a jog if the spirit moved. Today, even days with a walker may be over. You come into this world weighing more than your age and few adults live to see the numbers reverse. At 91 years, she’s down to only 86 pounds.

It’s the Circle of Life.

The few manners I may have came at the insistence of this demure Southern lady. My first dirty word, accidentally uttered in her presence, drew a sharp slap. It was agony to hold her back recently as a combination of dementia and one medical probe too many sent mama into a scratching-kicking-slapping-cussing fury that rocked six wary, but compassionate, hospital attendants back on their heels.

We had to laugh, to keep from crying. She is tough.

Donna and I remember when she’d comfort against every bump and bruise life presented. Today, we try valiantly to stem her tears as the requisite push and pull of hospital care strains her bony, aching limbs.

Once, she fed us a bottle and scrubbed our teeth. Today, we scrub her dentures and feed droplets of water to soothe her parched mouth.

It’s the Circle of Life.

Mama’s been down before and surprised us all in how vigorously she’s bounced back. The bounces, sadly, are getting lower and slower.

We try to be optimistic. If the schedule holds true, needed treatment will be over soon and mama returns to familiar surroundings at Baptist Village where patient, caring angels wearing scrubs, instead of wings, treat her like royalty.

Donna smoothes mama’s sheets and massages her aches. I hold her cheek tenderly against mine and speak the words she used to whisper softly so many times, so long ago:

“Don’t cry ... It’s OK ... I’m here ... Don’t cry ... It’s OK ... I’m here ...

It’s all we can do.

Just hope it’s enough.

“Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the Circle
The Circle of Life”

• Robert M. Williams Jr. is an Effingham County native who publishes newspapers in Blackshear, Alma, Folkston, McRae and Forsyth. E-mail him at