Thursday, February 18, 2016


I couldn’t make poetry out of words this time. Wrestling with the words to explain what I’ve lost would not make the loss pretty or more profound. My mom died. And she died really suddenly. And I didn’t get to see her the week she died because my life got in the way. And I can’t quite grasp with any real clarity what it was we last said to one another. And I don’t remember our last hug. And that’s just brutal. I can’t make poetry out of that. So, I’ve just let the words do what they want. I’ll just be the raw, completely broken-hearted eldest daughter that I am, and it will be enough.

I orbited around my mom like a tiny moon in a gravitational thrall. I would move about my week in a circle that always led back to her. All of us kids did. The four of us have this internal compass that was always oriented back towards her and if we walked away from her a little too far, for a little too long, something in us would start to ache until our feet turned back. Now that she’s too far for us to get to, that ache is a constant, un-abating thing sitting right here in our chests. I caught a few of us actually walking around this week trying to rub the pain away.

She knew her kids in an essential way. By that, I mean that she knew our essences, our cores, our fundamental selves. She watched us. Studied us. Learned us. Then she coaxed the beautiful bits up to the surface and ruthlessly hauled up the ugly bits as well. She wanted to really see us, to hold us up to the light and really see us, because to be known is everything. She looked at her children with clear eyes: Beautiful and sinful and beloved.

My mom loved so much better than anyone I know. She found it easy to love, I think. There wasn’t a type of person she was in the habit of loving. She just loved whoever was put in front of her. Our kitchen, and our coffee maker, and my mom’s love were a life-giving, even life-saving combination. She listened as intently as she did because she actually wanted to hear what you had to say. And the things she said landed so well because they were honest, insightful and usually true. Her determination to say the truest thing rather than the nicest thing made it harder for any of us to cuddle up close to our favourite sins. Like the gardener she was, she unearthed things that needed digging up and tucked new, vibrant, healthy things inside us instead.
This was such a hard year for my mom. We watched a woman who had always been on her feet drop to her knees because of a body that had betrayed her. The couch and a warm blanket were about all she could get out of most days. For obvious reasons she was deeply unhappy, mostly because the pain made her weary, and her sensitive body couldn’t be touched, not by her husband, not by her children, and not by her grandchildren. But here’s the thing, that skill my mom had for unearthing the bad and replacing it with good, it wasn’t just a skill she used for others. She was well practiced at digging deep into her own heart as well. She never hid this refining process from her children, so we saw it at work often enough to recognize it. This is what I saw my mother do with her couch, her blanket and her battered body; she surrendered it all in prayer through the dark, sleepless hours of every morning. At 3:30 a.m. every day, when her aching bones stole her sleep away, she’d lie on that couch, tucked under her favourite blanket and talk to her God. What was born out of necessity became a marrow-deep delight. She would describe her morning chats with God to me with a child-like glee. And her joy was my joy.

My mom doesn’t need pain to teach her to talk to God anymore. But apparently I do. I am in pain. So, on the couch, under a warm blanket, I will be talking to Him. I am her eldest daughter. I am raw and completely heart-broken, but her joy was my joy, her God is my God and that is enough.