We are moving to the midpoint of Holy Week and I am feeling the loneliness of this season. The empty tomb awaits us, the glorious garden story, the triumph of Love over death.
But right now?
It’s dark in this heart of mine. Not without hope, no, never that. But dark, nonetheless. As I do every evening, I spoke with my aging mother on the phone tonight. Very briefly, as she cannot tolerate more than about 2-3 minutes without being overcome by confusion. As I said good night to her, the tears pricked.
I find them behind my eyes a lot these days. Watching a valiant, loved mother lose herself, piece by piece, is a painful and difficult process. There are days when it feels never-ending, when there is yet another jagged piece of reality thrust in both our faces.
I listened to an interview on the PBS Newshour tonight, a conversation with an author who tweeted his way through his mother’s death a year ago. He has now written a book about that journey and it sounds intriguing.
But as he talked, I realized that his journey was very different from the one I take with my mother. He lost his mother over a few days in the ICU, with her fully awake and cognizant until the very end. I have been losing mine for the last six years, watching her slowly unravel and as she herself put it last week, ‘losing pieces of myself’ from minute to minute.
Yes, the tears are ever-present in our journey. I find myself saying, “I am so sorry, Mom,” repeatedly. And there is a lot of repeating going on in our conversations now. In our regular 90-minute lunch together, I will tell her at least ten times that I am her daughter and she is my mother. Each time, she is delighted to say, “I never knew that.” I also recount each of the places she has lived in her long life, tell her that she was married for 63 years. “I was? I was married? Is he alive?” “No, Mom, he died ten years ago.” “Oh, no! Did I take good care of him?” “Oh, yes, Mom, you took such good care of him.” “Well, at least I did that right.”
Oh, sweet Mama — you did so many things right! So many.There is so little left, your story has become so very small.
Some days I wonder if there is any evidence of Easter in this sad story we tell together. Is there hope? Is there resurrection?
The answer is ‘yes’ — and I find Resurrection Hope by looking in two directions: directly out at who she is right now, and forward, to what she will be once the dying has stopped.
Right now, my mother is beautiful. She smiles at everyone, she says ‘thank you,’ over and over again. She tells me I am a wonderful person and that she is so glad to be with me. She cheerily greets all who pass us on our slow progression from car to restaurant, from hallway to recliner chair. She finds delight in the beauty she can see — the sunlight on her back, the distant view of the ocean, any small child she sees on our weekly outing. These things are lovely to watch.
The pieces of my mother that remain fairly shimmer with kindness, joy, hope, light. All of her life, Mom earnestly sought the face of God. And now that Face shines out of her eyes, sparkles in her smile, and echoes in her diminishing vocabulary. These lovely things are the seeds of resurrection. Such beautiful seeds — these are what I see when I look at the now.
And when I look ahead? What I see there is restoration, relief, refreshment, reunion. She talks about it from time to time, always with wonder in her voice, and I find myself occasionally praying for her release, hoping that she will fall asleep in her cozy bed, pictures of her family lining the walls, and wake up walking the streets of heaven, hand-in-hand with my dad.
I used to feel vaguely guilty about such prayers but I no longer do. I offer them with deep thanksgiving for who she was, and yes, for who she is. Even in this terrible time of losing and failing, my mother fairly radiates Easter Hope.
So, I’ll take her a lily on Sunday. I’ll kiss her on the cheek, give her a big bear hug and I’ll wish her a Happy Easter. And then, I’ll drive south with my husband, south to younger family, vibrant family, family she made possible, family she loved and who love her still.
And I will carry in my body and in my spirit the seeds of resurrection that my mother has planted deep in me, seeds of promise, of beauty, of hope.
Happy Easter, Mom. I love you.