When I saw her body laying on the kitchen floor, I was overcome with sorrow. All the life had gone out of her. It slipped away in the dark morning of Christmas Eve. I know she raged against it.
After all, she had fought for years to stay with us. Through endless procedures and countless trips to the emergency room, she gave it all she had. That winter morning she tried to resist dying. She always wanted to be with us one more day, one more year. But, ultimately, her body betrayed her, and when it did the the Great Light of the World greeted her and took her home.
I always thought I would be there for that final surrender.
My sisters and I laid on the floor beside her body. Stroked her white crown. I wrapped my arms around her, Momma, Momma, Momma. The body I had loved for 50 years. The body through which came so much love and prayer. The body in which I was once carried and by which I was once born, now quiet. I wanted to put the life back in her. I felt the panic of the woman in the parable of the Lost Coin. Perhaps if I took a broom and swept her entire apartment I could find her life, and say,
“Aha! I have found my mother. Now, let us gather together and put this life back in her and hold her to my breast once again.”
Except, I had rarely held her to my breast. I was a dutiful daughter. I loved her madly. She knew it. She knew we all loved her. All her children. She also knew we were all broken. We all struggled to be all in — in the all of everything.
All in. What does it mean?
The last time I saw my mother I kissed her on the cheek. I hugged her and told her I loved her. I knew she would die eventually, maybe soon. Every time I said goodbye, I was aware that it might be the last time I ever saw her. That time finally came. I will never forget the creamy white of her cheeks, her skin against my lips, thinner as the years went by. She was beautiful.
Momma, Momma, Momma. Please come back.
So many times, I wanted to crawl in bed next to her. Hold her like a baby. Cry in her lap like I did as a child. I wanted to cup her face in my hands and tell her how much I loved her — how much her dying was killing me. But, I held it inside like a chamber of passionate kisses, never to be set free. I wasn’t all in.
Time and time again I find myself thinking of Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, a book about how women can achieve their full potential, particularly in the workforce. It’s become quite the mantra for professional women. But, what are we suppose to lean in to? America’s pool of bloodless careerists?
In the days before my mother died, I told her I was miserable. She gave me a dream catcher, “For all your nightmares,” she said. Every morning, her spirit reminds me to pray and read my Bible. This morning, she led me once again to the Book of 1 Peter, Chapter 3.
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, Whoever would love live and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn away from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.”
The lesson for me in these most immediate days following the loss of the love of my life, my mother, is this: Be All In. All in, all the time, every day. Don’t lean in, be in. All in. This is what it means to be fully alive, to walk not in the flesh, but in the Spirit.
Be All In. All in, all the time, every day. Don’t lean in, be in. All in. This is what it means to be fully alive, to walk not in the flesh, but in the Spirit.
Death, we learned on Christmas Eve, is cold and hard and blue. My eldest child found her. The traumatic images of that day are stored on a spool of film in her mind. Without warning, the pictures pass through the light and the lens. We cannot stop the looping, even if we close our eyes.
And, so, death, has greeted us, and now our hearts are set against a rough current, created by life without her. But, by her love, we are warm and soft and red. By her love, we are all in, loving madly without pause or regret.