Missing Them

Whenever I can, I like to join in Heather King’s “Just Write” meme. Today was a day with a layer of sadness pushing its way up to the light, needing to be looked at and prayed through. Here is what comes when I ‘just write’ it out:

I sat on our swing today, for the first time in a few weeks.
It’s a favorite spot for being still, centering, reflecting.

Today, as I put my feet up on the bench and swayed beneath the old oak,
I held before the Lord the names of all my friends who are struggling,

and of all the dear ones closest to me, my children and my grandchildren.
The older two of our eight are wrestling their way to adulthood,
asking good, hard questions.
The youngest is living with chronic illness at the tender age of three.
And my friends are struggling with physical illness, with sick kids,

with broken marriages, and dying dreams.
It felt good to simply say their names,
to remember who they are,
to take their struggles into the presence 
of the God who loves us all,
and whose ways are mysterious, indeed.

And then I thought of them.
Our two mothers,
valiant, beautiful women, both of them,
women who poured themselves into faith and family

all their lives, their long lives.

Fiercely intelligent, strong, funny, tender, loving,
each of these women had a profound influence on who I am,
on who my husband is, on who my children are.

And I wept for them, and for us, and for all the unknowns
of where we are right now.
I admitted that I don’t understand why they suffer like this,
why their lives of faithfulness are ending in
confusion, anxiety, insensibility.

And I realized that I am missing them.
They’re here with us, we see them twice a week,
I talk with my mom on the phone in between those times.
They’re here.

But they’re not here,
not all of who they are. So I allowed myself to miss the
pieces that have floated away, the mothers I once knew so well.

Their long lingering is, of course, teaching me things.
Important things, necessary things.
Most especially, I am looking at my assumptions about
what it means to be a human person,
created in the image of God.
I am learning to release the idea that Descartes made so
‘popular’ generations ago: “I think; therefore, I am.”

I have bought into this mythology at a very deep level;
I have believed that intelligence is the single most important indicator
of the imago dei. I have dreadfully limited my understanding of
who we are as children of God, children who are loved
whether or not we can think coherently.
Whether or not we can remember,

whether or not we can communicate verbally,
whether or not we can command our minds to do what we tell them to do. 

And I am learning to let go, a little more each day,
and to value them, not only for who they have been in the past,
but for who they are now.
For these bodies that bore us are still lovely,
even as they gradually fade away.
There are whispers and echoes of stories we share,
there are wisps of songs that rise to the surface,
there are traces of who they are in a glance, a smile, a single word.

And there is love.

Always, there is love. 

My mother-in-law on her 97th birthday, January of this year.

My mom on her 92nd birthday, around the same family room table,
in the same memory loss unit, celebrating her 92nd birthday in July.

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  1. Diana – this was really lovely. Who cannot feel the longing and love in your swaying? Beneath the reality of this time for you, only half-hidden, is the question of our own aging. I pray that we will have those around us who still believe that we are there. Thank you for this.

  2. This is beautiful. The words resonate as my 80 year old mother is declining in the final stages of Alzheimer’s – and I miss her so much.

    • So many of us are at this stage – missing people who are still here. I am grateful you found resonance here and pray for all of us who walk this journey.

  3. Diana, you and I are at the same place with our beloved mothers and mothers-in-law. I had the unexpected joy of spending 6 weeks with both of them this summer. I have a lot of emotions and questions and memories that you do. God bless you as you walk this journey. All of your post spoke to me but especially your final words: “There are traces of who they are in a glance, a smile, a single word. And there is love. Always, there is love.” So much truth! I also was deeply touched by Sue’s comment, above. I know I will probably someday be in a similar situation as my mother and mother-in-law. I think of my kids being in the same situation you and I are in now. May God have mercy on all of us, shed His loving grace on all of us. My mother is SO SWEET and GENTLE during this phase of her life. I pray that God will help me also be sweet and gentle. (I’m afraid I might be grumpy and grouchy.) Thanks for your words, Diana, and for your heart. Bless you.

    • Oh, yes, I am so with both you and Sue in that concern; it’s always there somewhere – Lord, help me to help them if this is the road I take. And I do pray for mercy all along the way. Thanks for reading and commenting, Linda. I’m always glad to see you.

  4. Diana, this is so lovely and real. You honor both life and your moms through this beautiful tribute. Your openness to hear and learn in the midst of loss brings forth such a gift. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Diana, I felt as though I was sitting right next to you on that swing, rocking back and forth, considering these things.

    I have been convinced for a long time that God is more powerful than our ability to comprehend or put into words. I’ve had friends who have grieved as their aging parents lost memory or slipped into comas, those wondering if their loved ones had ever embraced Christ and His gospel. And I’ve said, “As long as there’s life; there’s hope. Who knows that God’s Spirit isn’t whispering to their Spirit even now?”

    And I pray this is true.

    I’m so glad you are writing out your grief and lament. Your words are a song we need to learn to sing.

    • Thank you so much for these beautiful words, Nancy. I take them as the gift they are and I sing with you on that quote. I am convinced that God works in ways we cannot even begin to conceive and that Spirit speaks to spirit in spite of dementia or coma. Love you, my friend.

  6. My, oh my! I bought into the same myth, big time.
    But we are, because He Is.
    They are, because He Is.
    Yes, love. Always love. Beyond thought. Beyond breath.
    Prayers for your grieving heart, dear one.

  7. This is such a beautiful tribute Diana!! So much heartache, yet God uses what is broken to reveal His glory, showcase His mercy, bring about healing, pour out His blessings, knit together families, and draw hearts closer to Him. Praying for you —

  8. To use a word from your blog title, I am wondering what was happening just beyond our knowing as you put those you love before the Lord, named them. I was in Hebrews Chapter One a couple of days ago. The writer was explaining who Jesus is in relation to the angels. I was reminded of the ministering spirits that are sent out from heaven…I wonder (again) if they are not ministering to those who don’t have their minds intact in ways, doing so in ways that we can’t understand? This life often is so bittersweet.

    Thank you so much, Diana. I know you have a lot to pray about, but when the time comes again to sit on that swing, would you lift up my name? I am grieving too but in another direction…Know I am lifting you, the young and the old, all who you love who are struggling.

    • What a lovely thing to wonder, Dea! Thank you. And I did lift your name before the Lord as I drove into my driveway after an outing today. Everybody is struggling with something, you know? Many blessings, friend.

  9. That picture of your mum is so lovely… I don’t know why, but this post reminds me of something God keeps speaking to my soul. Many times in the past year or so, whenever I see something particularly lovely – a tree, gnarled and bent by the wind; a bird, soaring above an empty beach, catching light on the edge of it’s wings; the sun sending fingers through the clouds – as I am admiring whatever has caught my eye I hear, echoing within me ‘They don’t see what they look like”.
    These things are just living, going about their business, completely unaware they are lit up with glory. Every time this thought occurs to me, I wonder… and hope that the same might be true of me.
    We don’t very often see what we look like to God. We don’t very often see what other people look like to God!
    So many of the things that you used to see – good, lovely things – when you looked at your two mothers, are not visible any more. But the things that God sees are still there… and who knows, but maybe somehow those things are shining brighter…
    Praying for you and yours!

  10. This is so tender, Diana. It really makes me think.

    Praying for grace for you in this continued difficult journey (x2).

  11. To “ferry people over well” is a special calling punctuated with moments just like this one you’ve described. You’re willingness to capture and share it is . . . courage in writing and an act of service, even though you don’t know when you post who exactly it is that’s served. But you write in faith that it serves. And it does. This is all beautiful.

    • It is good to be reminded I miss my people, and to stop and let myself miss them.

    • Thank you so much, Marilyn. I know it serves me when I write about all of this, and I’m discovering that there are a lot of people who are here now or who, like you, have dealt with it in the past. I just put a new post up about writing a poem with my mom (of sorts!!) yesterday during lunch. I bounced off of an excellent video I’d seen about a man who became a lovely watercolor artist in his dementia years. Mom can’t see, so painting was out. I tried words, instead – and we enjoyed it.

  12. Letting out a big sigh for all our clingings and letting go’s, for the beauty of the moment and for the fear of the unknown. This simply naming our friends and loved ones, the groanings for them, for us… I love knowing that the Spirit transforms those into words, that God hears and sees and cares… There’s so much our finite minds can’t grasp. This taking time to be still, to sway into His presence, it’s like being rocked in His arms.

    • I’ll join you in that sigh, Sandy. And yes, that swing is one place where I do feel like I’m rocking in God’s arms – that’s why I love to sit there. Thanks for coming by, friend. Always glad to see you.

  13. I just found your beautiful blog today. Your speak words of life! I also wanted to share this book I just found out about that might be of interest to you.

    The Geography of Memory: A Pilgrimage Through Alzheimer’s

    blessings as you love others well and teach us what that looks like day by day.

    • I’m so glad you did find it, Amy!! And thank you for your kind words and the recommendation. I already own that book and hope to begin reading it soon; I’ll be contributing to a month-long series of reviews and reflections on this title at The High Calling in January of next year.

  14. You’ve set me to thinking again, Diana–this time about the imprint of God’s image on each of his children, whether whole or not so whole (by our standards). Danny comes to mind–a young man with Down Syndrome that our family knew years ago. He was such a warm, friendly, upbeat guy. Everyone loved him. He was “whole” in ways that many “normal” people are not. Then there’s Patrick, who’s autistic. Yet his sense of humor is delightful. His work at a local restaurant is greatly appreciated because he’s reliable. People like Danny and Patrick bring out the best in people around them, too. What an impact! And as I contemplate their influence alongside your thoughtful post, I am nodding in agreement with your assessment: we understand little about the value of each child of God. Intelligence, athletic prowess, and glowing talents pale in comparison to faith and love.

  15. Beautiful words, thank you!