My last joke with my mom was a running one for about a week. It was about my garden and, specifically, weeds. At some point I blurted out in her hospital room, only half joking, “Mom, I just don’t think it’s fair that I’m just getting interested in gardening NOW, and now you’re leaving and who is going to help me with my weeds??” She had laughed and reminded me that it had also taken me a long time, too long in her book, to fall in love with cooking and to start cleaning my room. She shared some thoughts on my weeds, the merits of the kind I had if I was going to have them, and how to get rid of them.
Two nights later, finally home, while I helped her with her shower, Mom and I laughed and talked about nothing while inside I cringed at how weak she was and how hard it was for her to even hold her tooth brush. She was awake only for an hour that night. I know it sounds silly, but at several points I nearly broke down and wept with the question, “But what about my WEEDS, Mom??” on the tip of my tongue. I knew though, as I’ve written before, that my weeds weren’t the issue. It was my mom who was the issue.
What on earth do I do without her?
This person I loved so dearly and went to with everything was passing away before my eyes and I wasn’t ready to let her go.
Mom barely stayed awake for her shower. I got her back into bed. My brothers and dad came in and we all relished watching her drink a chocolate milkshake.
The next day, I’d gone to B10 armed with her knowledge and failed miserably at weeding my garden. The weeds, no exaggeration, were taller than I am at about 6 ft. and had roots that ran over a foot into the soil. I’d cursed under my breath, grunted, dug, and poured sweat and only managed to pull three of them before it was time to leave. I stopped on the dirt road to talk to the grounds keeper, Robert, on my way out and discovered as we spoke that I had met not only a fellow Christian, but a man whose own wife was fighting breast cancer as well. We bonded under the afternoon sun while Eamonn tossed stones and happily played in the gravel at my feet. We laughed at my plot, visible from anywhere else in the gardens if only you looked for the tallest plants in the place: my weeds. Robert promised to pray for my family. I promised to pray for his.
That night, I sat with my mom for the last time. I read to her from a card our friends had sent, weeping the words of Hebrews to her sleeping form while she struggled to breathe. I kissed her hair. I said good night. The next morning, Friday, at 4:40 AM, I found my mother’s peaceful body. She was gone.
On Saturday I escaped for a while by myself and, as is becoming my habit, headed to my little plot, B10. When I got to Ivey Ranch I stepped out of my car and headed into the gardens and immediately got disoriented. I looked around and couldn’t find my plot. I counted plots down and found what I knew was my plot but it took me a second to realize why it didn’t look like my own. My worst weeds were gone. My mouth hung open and I looked up and around. Down, on the other end of the garden, a man stood staring at me with a smile. I hurried toward him.
“Who did that?” I asked. “My plot is B10. Do you know…do you know who pulled them all?”
“Did you talk to anyone the other day?” he asked, still smiling?
“Robert. I talked to Robert the grounds keeper.”
The man nodded. “That’s who did it. That’s him. He just kept going around all day telling people, ‘Someone needs to help her with her weeds.’ I guess he was talking about you.”
I am ashamed to say I can barely look at pictures of my mom right now. When I do, the desire to come undone is sometimes too much to bear and so I shy away. When my son demands “Mama come” and I have to explain that she can’t come, that she is with Jesus, I rarely make it through without tears. When I stop and think about time even a week from now, I cringe at the grief I know is waiting for me. I see it lurking around corners, waiting for me in all the places we used to go. I always had the possibility of Mom in every part of every day. It would be so easy for me to dwell on the new possibility of grief and forget that grace, too, is waiting for me.
My weeds could have been grief but instead they were grace. For that day, I got through. And that gives me hope for each next day, too.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
My plot before Robert’s visit:
My plot the day after Mom died: