After the Tears


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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.

Those tears.

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.

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Comments

  1. Oh Diana, this is the hard beautiful. Well lived, and well written. Love to you.

  2. So lovely–as you are and she is! Full of tears! And so full of hope with you! Will giver a hug tomorrow. Am blessed daily by her greeting and beautiful smile!

  3. So beautifully written with so much love and living grief with hope

  4. Patricia Spreng says:

    I know this is exactly what you were to write… and I am blessed for it. For when the dying is over… such a poignant truth. Sending you an Easter hug even in the dark places… thank you for watering my resurrection seeds with your tears.

  5. You sweet mother is a testimony of Resurrection Seed planted and blossoming with the fruit of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22,23).

  6. “what she will be once the dying has stopped.” This line strikes me so completely, Diana. I’m grateful you found space to write this. Grateful for the ways you are naming the gifts in the midst of grieving.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting, Kelly. When I read it after I wrote it, that line stopped me, too. Sometimes the words surprise me, you know?

  7. Dea Moore says:

    She did so many things right…such a hard and beautiful story of living and dying and living again. God bless you Diana and God bless your beautiful mother.

  8. Gwen Acres says:

    “…seeds of resurrection…. seeds of promise, of beauty, of hope.” As you share your mother’s story
    those seeds are being sowed in many hearts. Beautiful Diana. Thank you !

  9. Anne-Marie says:

    Breathtaking. So honest. Thank you.

  10. Hi Diana,

    I’m stopping by from the Resurrection community link-up! Your blog post is beautiful and transparent. Your story is helping people and it will continue to bless others. Keep writing about it.

    Happy Easter to you!
    Blessings,
    Stacey

  11. Easter hope, indeed. Grateful for it. Thanks for this beautiful piece. Praying for you this morning, Diana.

    Fondly,
    Glenda

    • I found it in spam and I have no idea why! Hopefully this will not happen again. Thanks for these kind words and for your prayers, Glenda.

  12. Oh, Diana, your words and your heart bring tears to my eyes. I have walked the same journey with you over the past few years as my mother and your mother have been going through almost exactly the same life changes. Your blog posts have resonated with me, and my heart has gone out to you and your mother. Monday my family and I spoke of our dear little mother dying a year ago that day, feeling such a strange sensation. I still sometimes forget she’s gone from us. I suspect I might always feel that way. Like your mother, mine was so sweet and thoughtful and always making people happy to be in her presence. I rejoice that you are cherishing every moment with your mother. GOD BLESS YOU, Diana.

    • I cannot believe it’s been a whole year, Linda. Time just flies by when you get to your age, doesn’t it?? Thanks for you kindness and your faithfulness, Linda – to your mom and to me, too.

  13. Sandy Hay says:

    “All of her life, Mom earnestly sought the face of God.” This brings tears to me. What a legacy.

  14. Dementia brings loss after loss, for the sufferer and for the loved ones. Thank you for sharing this bit of your journey, the darkness and the bright lily of hope. Your mother is beautiful.

  15. Our tears can be a kind of baptism, no? I don’t have a lot of words for this post, but my heart is leaking out right through my eyes.

    Happy Easter, Diana.

    • Indeed they can, Sheila. I have written elsewhere that I believe tears to be a charism, a sacramental act, in a way. So I never say ‘no’ to them when they show up. Happy Easter to you, too, my friend.

  16. So very beautiful, Diana. So very touching. Feeling your tears as I watch my husband’s mother from afar slip away. {We married later and I never knew her before.} Blessings to you this Easter. And your precious mother. He’s holding your hand as He captures all your tears. xxoo #FindStability

  17. Your words are so full of Jesus, so full of beauty you have moved me to tears. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to experience this type of loss, the painful loss of memories. “Seeds of resurrection that my mother has planted deep in me, seeds of promise, of beauty, of hope. Such beautiful words…You are a beautiful and blessed daughter. Sending you a bear hug. ♥

  18. That is so beautiful. Reminding me of my own ‘mother’ who passed away last June. Dementia and parkinsons took her away, it was very different seeing the ‘mom’ remembered as a girl and then the present mom ‘visible’ to the adult. God be with you in this journey. It is not an easy one.

    • It never ceases to amaze me how many of us walk the same sad path. Thank you for reminding me that I’m not alone as I do my own walking.

  19. Diana, so absolutely poignant and joyfully tear-y, too. What a tribute. It reminds me of John 12:24, “Unless a corn of wheat die, it stands alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Such abundant fruit in your life and the lives of those she is leaving.
    Happy Resurrection, indeed.

    • Yes, Jody that verse comes to me almost every day I’m with my mother. Thank you for your kind words and I hope your Easter celebration is wonderful .

  20. Sometimes it helps me to imagine that the parts that seem missing are already with the Lord. Thank you for sharing your heart, here.

  21. You moved me to tears, too, Diana. This is equal parts breathtaking and heart-wrenching. But I can feel the glow of hope and love from your mom’s face coming through your words in the telling of her story. Somehow, her beautiful face and the evidence of love between you tells a larger story than what seems to remain of hers. May your heart be held in peace and comfort on this long journey, friend.

  22. Diana, your journey reminds me a bit of mine. Watching, “Granny” as she aged at my home and in my care. So very often I would remind her that I was not Anita and that I was her grandaughter Kim. She would respond with “oh that’s right” and smile. I knew sometimes, she didn’t always know that I was “Kimi” but I knew she appreciated me, my husband, our family, and her caretakers, she just couldn’t always identify how she knew us. My favorite part of her story was when strangers would come to help and she would strike up a conversation and tell them a story I had never heard before. Always something interesting or frightening, depending on what her mind was doing that day. Having her in our home until the end wasn’t on my bucket list, but I have no regrets and relish in her final months and days being surrounded by family and newborn great grandson (who is now almost 11). Love ya, Kim

    • My goodness, Kim, I had no idea you cared for Anita’s mom. You and your husband are SAINTS – wow. Do you know what a remarkable person you are? And to think – I’ve known you (although clearly not as well as I had hoped I might!) since you were teensy-tiny new. Your mom would be awestruck – and so am I. Love back to you, Kim.

  23. Lynn D. Morrissey says:

    Diana, this is an Easter offering to transcend Easter offerings, because through the Lord you have found beauty and living in the midst of the dying. You are somehow (and it feels so impossible) experiencing the Resurrection right here and now. I am so sorry for the angst that you still must experiencing midst those Resurrection seeds. I have experienced it with my father (not dementia on his part, but horrific physical suffering for many years and his subsequent deep depression). I have a friend my age dying of Alzheimer’s disease . . . the long good-bye. She doesn’t know me, Diana, and we were best friends and the same age. But I can see Resurrection seeds in her soul. Another friend and I sang Jesus Loves Me to her, and her vacant eyes gleamed for the briefest moment. I thnk it was Jesus shining out at us. I so appreciate the beauty, love, and depth that you have shared here about your very beautiful mother. This heartfelt rendering gives such hope in how you love and honor her, in how you know Jesus does, and in how you know she will be gloriously transformed and be with Him forever one day.

    • Thank you so much for these kind and encouraging words, Lynn! And I am so sorry about your friend. Early onset is the worst. My mom was about 86-87 when this hard process started, so we basically had 90 good years, before the damage to brain and body made lifestyle changes necessary. We have NO family history of this, however, so it’s been a stunning shock. Her mom and aunt lived to be 101 and 102, sharp as tacks til their last breaths.

  24. Diana, I shared this on my FB page for a woman who is living this very thing. It spoke to her truly. Then, another friend mentioned she’d read it too and needed it that very day. Isn’t it wonderful how God used our words to bless? Thank you.

  25. Diana,

  26. Diana, your post brought tears to my eyes for I too have a sweet lovely mother who has lost her ability to take care of herself. She is in a nursing home due to this. She usually still knows who I am when I call her but easily get confused and repeats herself continually. I am always a little depressed after I talk her because my health will not allow me to care for her. Because of my age I have tons of friends who are in the same place I am in with one or two parents. My Mom is so ready to go home to heaven and in this last year as I have seen her deteriorate I must admit I am ready for her to go too. I hate it that she can no long walk or care for herself anymore. I am thankful for a good nursing home in my hometown where my mother grew up so she knows everybody working in the care center. In fact she is usually the most social person there but even that is going since her dementia is getting worst. this was a lovely post, thanks.

    • I am sorry for you loss, Betty. And I know that ‘getting ready’ for a loved mom to make that last transition is terribly difficult and painful. I stand amazed at how many people are telling this same, sad story.

  27. A touching tribute. Although her story is “small” these days you honor her by telling the world who she really was.

  28. “All of her life, Mom earnestly sought the face of God. And now that Face shines out of her eyes.”

    My prayer is my kids would be able to say that about me. Other than that, I have no words–just tears. Love you, friend.