Merlot Mudpies

Can a blog be about gardening, cancer, family, food and life all at the same time? Oh good.

To Whom Shall We Go? April 8, 2008


Last night I had my first dream about my mother since she passed away. I can’t remember anymore where the dream started but suddenly I remember I was sitting in my dad’s house and I was on my cell phone and I realized that the person I was talking to was Mom. I knew she was dead in my dream and so my excitement and shock over her being on the phone was huge. She was telling me about how she was confused about her schedule and she wasn’t sure where she was supposed to be — she thought Crista had told her something about some appointments she had and she knew she wasn’t going to be able to treat her cancer anymore but wasn’t she supposed to go to her oncologist or something? She sounded confused but her own sweet self and said she’d have to get it straightened out.

I remember sitting there and thinking, “She doesn’t realize yet that she’s died. Do I tell her? How do I ask her the things I need to ask her if I don’t tell her that she’s died?” I know I was concerned that she’d either get upset at the revelation or that she would not be able to talk to me on the phone anymore once she knew.

Finally, hesitantly, I explained somehow and asked her, of all the things I could have been asking, “And Mom, we have so many things of yours that need to go somewhere. What would you prefer to happen to them? Do you have anything special that you wanted done with it or any special person you wanted to have anything?” I waited for a response but there was only silence. “Mom? Mom?!” I got louder and a little bit frantic wondering if the connection was just bad or if I’d made her upset though I knew she was just gone.

My dad walked into the room as I called into the phone and a bit awkwardly I kept asking her if she was on the phone and then burst into tears telling him, “Dad she was on the phone!” He looked at me and winced a bit and nodded his head and then, weirdly, I put on a show of being really upset though in my mind in the dream, I knew I was making more of it than I really was feeling.

At that point, for whatever reason as happens in dreams, I was driving and it was dawning on me what a lifeline my mother had been to me. She was a lifeline of understanding. If I got offended by a person’s behavior she usually had an insight or context to offer that made my anger or offense seem less important. If I didn’t know someone at church she could tell me who they were and interesting things about them. There just really wasn’t much of anything I couldn’t ask my mom.

In considering all of these things, finally, I began to feel in my dream what I have been dreading in real life: desolation.

I remember, when I was young and terribly afraid of the dark, sometimes waking up in the middle of the night with a longing for my mom and dad that was so intense it made my body ache like flu. I would be terrified of the darkness between my room and theirs right down the hall and I would lie awake, too scared to call their names, until the terror of the dark night (usually I’d had a bad dream to exacerbate my constant fear of the dark) was the lesser of the two pains I felt and I would dare with my muscles clenched to swing my feet over the side of the bed and creep down the hall with my blanket to their room. My mother slept furthest from the door, with only the closet to her side and there was just enough room for me to make a bed for myself there. I didn’t even need to climb into bed with them. I just needed to hear the rythm of their breathing. I would make a bed for myself on the floor of their room and curl up there and listen to the two of them sleep and feel the ache and fear ease and slip away just because I had them near.

I remember, Mom would often wake up and find me there and she would pull me up into bed with them, cuddling me up between them in the middle of the bed and I would sleep there in the middle of the two of them — one big hug of parent all around me.

This is what my dream-like grief felt like: that aching longing for my parents mixed with the paralyzing fear that I would never get to them, that in the dark they were too far away, too unreachable. I couldn’t see, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t do anything to ease it — in my dream all I could think was that I would never be able to see my mother again; all I could do was ache with it.

It was in the middle of this dream despair that Eamonn began to call for me. “Moooomm! MOM! HEY MOM!” came my two-year-old’s call. Ryan groaned and rolled to shut off the alarm. I let my eyes crack open, and my sleep soaked mind took a moment to reconcile my dream feelings with the reality of day.

My mom is gone. Just like in my dream, she really is dead. She has been dead a month. These are the things that are true. And I am sad this morning. But there is more that is true. As I’ve wept a bit this morning, stumbled around for coffee, glared with squinted eyes at my uncut and unbrushed hair in the mirror, and tried to figure out just exactly what Eamonn wants for breakfast when all he’ll do is repeat “THIS! THIS!” over and over again, other truths have begun to set in.

The ache of my dream reminded me of something else — no matter how scared I was back then, no matter how dark the room, no matter how much further away it seemed, my mom was just in the other room. She was just on the other side of the wall.

Here, the analogy breaks down as all analogies must when you begin to think about spiritual things, I think. It was the power of my own shaking little legs that brought me to my parents on those nights, but it was not my own power that comforted me this morning before I even got out of bed. What comforted me — and there WAS tremendous comfort — is simply the knowledge that I will see Mom again. She is gone but not forever. We are loved, cherished, held dear, protected and the children of the same God.

I know I keep arriving here, time and time again. Perhaps every post seems to head in the same direction these days. But this makes me think of Peter — dear, flawed, fallible Peter — an all-too-human follower of Jesus who replied to Christ’s query about whether he and the other disciples wished to stay with him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

And so during this time, where else can I possibly arrive? What other hope can I ask for? None. There is no other. Today I am sad, and I miss my mom, and she is just down the hall, and I have Hope.

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4 Responses to “To Whom Shall We Go?”

  1. Dear Mary,

    I was so comforted by your blog today. I’ve been writing about my first wife’s (Vicki) being “just on the other side of the wall,” and from time to time I need the kind of encouragement your column brought me today. Thanks for opening up your heart to “us” – the people on the ‘net who’ve experienced what you have. Desolation.

    About the time Vicki died I began telling my friends something like this: “I haven’t lost her. You can’t ‘lose’ something if you know where it is … and I know where she is.” I said that in response to those comforting phrases so many people use: “Sorry for your loss,” or “I’m so sorry you lost your wife.” I wasn’t trying to be sarcastic, coy, funny … and I wasn’t angry. I was sharing a truth that I felt and believed deeply.

    So many times I’ve gone to Jesus – that One who has eternal life in His supernatural DNA – and He’s taken me to 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. Paul, His servant, wrote about having an eternal perspective; not seeing time from point A (birth) to point B (death) alone (as so many do), but seeing our second birth as the beginning of eternal life.

    Take care. Oh, and by the way … almost five years after her death, I can still “see and hear” Vicki in my heart and mind. I cherish her memories. Thought you’d like to know that God continues to bless us with memories. I’m recently remarried now, and my new wife Becky understands how much I loved and love Vicki. (Vic and I were married five months past 30 years.) That said, the people that love you the most and are living will understand when you tear up, or reminisce about your Mom. Don’t worry about burdening family and friends with your pain, especially now – after so recent a death. They get it.

    Blessings and Aloha! Lowell

  2. merlotmudpies Says:

    Lowell — Thank you so much for this encouragement and I am so glad to know that what I wrote touched you in a comforting way. This has been my prayer as I’ve been writing this and why I keep writing even when I wonder what the heck I’m doing with a blog. I know there must be others out there who identify and find it comforting to hear similar thoughts from someone else. I know I do. How lovely that Becky honors and understands your ongoing love for Vicki. This right there tells me what a wonderful second wife you must have. Thank you for your encouragement back to me and I will be looking forward with you to seeing our loved ones and most especially our savior one day in heaven.

  3. Ani Says:

    And it’s such a circle Mary. There’s E calling out to you just like you were calling out to your parents.

  4. Myriam Says:

    Mary

    SO beautiful! I am so honored to read these entries. You always were so good with words. I cannot even fathom what this whole process is and has been for you of late. I love how concretely you illustrate your heart-cry with poignant stories and images from the past. This past year I lost two mother figures: one from my childood in France (my friend Elise’s mother Mira)–a flamboyant Italian woman filled with passion, intellect and life. She also died of cancer. She taught me to iron, to dust, to spell. She made me delicious food and cared for me when I was sick. She told me about History and Philosophy and God. She played me 45s of Edith Piaf the famous French singer. I miss her so. Your mother was a second mother figure I lost, this one who mothered me in my early twenties when I needed that so much. She always offered a listening ear and had words of wisdom at every turn. She baked me yummy breads that I will never forget and made me “Good Earth” tea. She didn’t chide our chain-smoking in the backyard or lecture me on the evils of toying with men’s hearts. She just loved me the way I was. Her warm and comforting way will always be with me. I too look forward to seeing her again someday. Thank you for sharing yourself with us this way. I continue to pray for you. Now you can be for Eammon what she has been for you. Blessings to you dear!


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