The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
A year ago yesterday, my mother passed away. Today, I have lived a year without her. No hell I’ve gone through in my life can compare to this loss.
I have her dining room set, now. The one she bought in Southeast Kansas where we spent two Christmases. My father pastored a church there in a valley surrounded by the Chautauqua Hills. On one side of us were lakes and on the other, the endless prairie. It was so cold in Kansas.
On wintry Sunday mornings we got to the church at 6 a.m. to light the gas heaters. My mother and I huddled together in the pews, freezing and filling the sanctuary with foggy vapor. It was so cold I could see her breath.
I never wanted my mother to be cold.
I keep my mom’s Bible and devotional books on her old dining room table, pine. Or is it maple? I keep thinking I’ll make time to read them, but I don’t have time for anything except work. Work at work, work at home, it’s all the same. Constant work spliced between fleeting moments of joy and rage, sorrow and hope.
All Stars Faded, All Birds Flown
Today is Christmas. Bridgy is putting together her Harry Potter Lego set and Sullivan is riding his Morf Board through the house. For precisely 12 minutes I ignore the laundry, the dishes and the dust, and I settle on the couch with my mother’s copy of Jesus Calling. It was one of her favorite books. As I open it, the lock of snowy white hair I clipped from her crown falls to the floor. I’d carried it from her motionless body that cold Christmas Eve morning, all stars faded, all birds flown.
It’s astonishing how composed we all remained despite the violent awakening to her death. Our beautiful mother, the one who gave us all life, left her apartment on a gurney, zipped up in a velvet body bag. For the next three nights I cried “Mom, Mom, Mom,” over and over again as I expelled a flood of warm tears through the icy veins of my reality.
Christmas Eve Mass
During Christmas Eve mass, I stared at the beautiful wreath and red ribbons circling the crucifix above the altar. The nailed Jesus surrounded by holly and vine. I thanked God that if my mother had to die He called her home on a holiday. The one thing she wanted in life more than anything was to be remembered. I will never work on Christmas Eve, and the anniversary of her death will never occur on a day when I have to be occupied with meetings and projects and deadlines. The world will always be striving toward the merry and the calm and the bright every year when we mark her passing. This is mercy.
And, still, today is Christmas, also known as the start of year two without my mother. It scares me to have the first year behind me, for I’m that much deeper into the future without her. It stretches before me like a beast of an ocean, dark and dragon-green. My boat is inadequate for the journey, and even if by some miracle I make it half way, I’m afraid by the time I get there I will have forgotten my mother: Her smile. Her full cheeks. Her laughter. Her warmth. Her palms, thick and strong from all that crocheting and sewing and quilting and praying.
To The Ages
The other night, I laid awake in bed thinking of my mother. And in the quiet darkness she came to me and said, “I belong to the ages, now.” These words devastated me, for I do not want her life to be over, a dusty book in an abandoned library that nobody will ever read. But, like all prophetic words that are given to us by God as balm or salve to cure confusion and disbelief, the words helped me understand the present. I, too, will belong to the ages someday. I will leave Sullivan and Bridgette and Juliette and Willow, just as my mother left me. Between now and then, there is one thing I must do and it is something my mom did fabulously well: Live.