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July 7th, 2023 – Post #90
I’m determined to try to get back to writing everyday; but it’s hard in the midst of grief. I wanted to write to encourage other people to write. Maybe that’s me not wanting to be real and honest about my own story.
There’s something inside of me that wants to get passed the loss of my mom and talk about other things – future things.
The things I meant to say before she got sick.
The manuscripts I was in the midst of before she broke her arm – what I was working on, pre-pancreatic cancer.
But here I am, sitting in a Hampton Inn, saying this…
trying to follow what I’d say to someone in my shoes..
Write About What You’re In The Midst of, Even When It’s the Last Thing You Want to Face
I think as much as I want to move on publicly and grieve privately, maybe I’m supposed to be willing to be a bit more of an open book about the precious and painful moments I’m
It’s strange how I can feel perfectly fine for a full day, then that heavy cloak of sadness comes down – like a wet, wool blanket, smothering me, as I try to resurface from the bottom of a crystal clear pool of tears.
It makes me want to be alone.
It makes me want to be distracted.
It makes me want to sit still or crawl back in bed.
It’s all consuming, so I don’t want it to steal even my writing time away – and yet, it’s what is most on my heart, so why keep trying to fight my way free? I only wind up exhausted.
Write About Connections with Other People’s Stories
Eleven days ago I flew from Fort Wayne to St. Louis, returning for the first time since the day after my mom’s first funeral.
On the first leg of my flight I met a woman named Steph, carrying her baby. She’d just visited her family for the first time since her dad died. She’d come halfway around the world, a midwestern girl having met and married an Australian.
The Lock-down-Down-Under, during Covid, kept her from being able to go back for her dad’s funeral. Her mom had since sold their house.
Steph wasn’t there when her dad drew his last breath, she didn’t get to be there in person for her father’s funeral, and she didn’t have the chance to go back to their home for one last look.
I was still remembering the months of intensive labor leading up to that last night when my mom’s lungs ceased to fill.
I’d been through two funerals for my mom – both seemed like a blur that I could barely recall. I was heading to St. Louis to help my dad get their home of nearly fifty years ready to sell.
I’d very unexpectedly wound up living there off and on for over two years, wondering how long it would be before I could move on, and feeling bad about that all at the same time.
Somehow God connected our paths, Steph’s and mine, and we spent several hours in the airport lounge sharing our stories. Our stories were so different, and yet, death and loss and the comfort we were both finding in the Lord’s kindnesses linked us together.
My time with her was a gift, giving me courage to face the upcoming trip to a house without my mom.
Write About Memories and What You Miss
My dad picked me up at the airport. He was waiting in a chair without my mom anywhere in sight. That was what I saw.
I wondered what he felt. Was it strange to not have her by his side – or rather, somewhere around, most likely having struck up a friendly conversation with a total stranger…
I’d flown all day without reporting my whereabouts to my mom. That was a strange feeling.
We pulled in the driveway.
My mom wasn’t waiting at the door, or looking anxiously out the window, or standing unsteadily at the top of the driveway.
Seeing her snowball hydrangeas bowing their heads in full bloom made my breath catch in my chest and brought me back to last summer.
I’d traveled to Colorado and onto Texas, returning to see my mom sitting and waiting for me on the front porch bench, perched behind that wall of hydrangeas.
She’d been nearly bald before I left, wearing her blue bathrobe, eating a bowl of “Cheerios and bluebirds” (she kept interchanging the word blueberries for the matching birds)…
But while I was gone, and she was worrying about my sister not making it back from her float trip through the Grand Canyon, her hair had come back – curly.
The crown of her head looked so much like a flower from that hedge of hydrangeas that I put my nephews green shorts over the front of her, so it looked like a stem, and snapped her picture.
The memory made me smile and shudder all at the same time.
Write About What You’re Facing Now
In writing about writing, I just put up a post entitled, “Should I get a face tattoo?”.
Anybody who knows me well, is going to realize that’s not really something I’m considering.
I can only imagine how that sentence would have shocked my mother.
As well as she knew me, that sentence would have still startled her.
I did love to startle her…
We went in the house, and I steeled myself for the task of downsizing, something I’ve been wanting to do there for years; but not wanting to face these last few months.
I love to organize – as far as stuff is concerned; but papers are a completely different story.
I don’t like sorting through papers.
I tried to take all the scraps that have been compounding and pile them in one closet, then divide things according to who I thought they would mean the most to, and determine what ought to be discarded…
It was a daunting task, and there’s still much to be done;
but I want to say that I feel like
I spent several days with a lot of you.
If You Don’t Know What to Write, Write a Letter
I went through the cards she’d kept.
Some were separated into Ziploc bags. Others were held in bundles by taught, dry rubber bands. I opened them and read.
There were yearly reports from some of you.
There were letters from loved ones lost to death. People that have had an impact on my life, and hers, and many of yours.
It was a gift to hold a little more of their history, and it hurt, too.
She must have missed them, and liked to get their letters.
She must have hurt upon hearing that they’d drawn their last breath.
She must rejoice to be reunited with them, and have no more tears.
I read letters from my dad’s mom and my mom’s mom; both anxious about how she was doing, both looking toward their next visits with her. That generational trait had been passed down to my mom.
Their letters sounded like her letters to me.
I’ve got my own stash from her and from many of the same people, who penned words that she once treasured, and I still do today.
There was a small bundle of mail for me from some of you.
Thank you for those cards of comfort and encouragement.
Put Your Solitary Pain into a Poem, It May Touch Someone Unknown a Century From Now
One card particular stood out, especially because of the enclosed poem, which seemed so fitting upon my first arrival to St. Louis, without my mom there to greet me…
She always leaned to watch for us, Anxious if we were late, In winter by the window, In summer by the gate; And though we mocked her tenderly, Who had such foolish care, The long way home would seem more safe Because she waited there. Her thoughts were all so full of us, She never could forget! And so I think that where she is She must be watching yet, Waiting till we come home to her, Anxious if we are late -- Watching from Heaven's window, Leaning from Heaven's gate. - Margaret Widdemer. (From CROSS CURRENTS by Margaret Widdemer, copyright, 1921, by Harcourt, Brace and Company, Inc.)
I’m guessing Margaret Widdemer was experiencing grief when she penned those words, which were copyrighted one hundred and two years ago.
Who knows how long she’d kept them stuffed in a drawer before they were shared with another soul?
Perhaps she never even wanted them seen. Maybe she even felt they were a waste of ink; but she wrote them anyway, and they helped me describe my mom, when I had few sensible words left.
And she made me think I ought to keep taking the time to type out my words, too.
Back Home Again In Indiana
I remember rolling my eyes when my mom would sing those words, and yet here I am at another Hampton Inn, with that tune rolling through my mind.
I’ve been sometimes laughing, sometimes totally stressed that hotels have become “my home away from homelessness” while I work on finishing my cargo trailer conversion.
I’m so thankful for the travel hacking trips and points through my Capital One and American Express Hilton Honors cards, because free nights have definitely come in handy during this transient season.
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Anyway, I’m back in Indiana now. I landed in Fort Wayne and didn’t need to tell my mom. It was strange to not feel the need to soothe her worries about where I’d be staying, how late it was, whether I was tired, etc…
I was tired. I seem to always be tired these days.
Sometimes I feel ashamed of my exhaustion.
There was a text from Erica: “Hope u made it home!”
The baton has been passed, I announced that I’d landed to my sister, then sent news of my whereabouts to a couple of other people, knowing my mom would want me to, in case I got murdered, or anything like that…
My sister also asked if I had any videos of our mom and could I send them, because her four year old was screaming and crying for grandma…
I do have a lot of videos.
My phone is totally out of storage.
Sometimes my heart feels the same way.
The plane was deboarding. I found one or two clips, and sent them, then thought of a few others on my way into the terminal and pulled them up to see if they would be appropriate for my niece.
The next thing I knew, I was standing in the airport at nearly eleven at night, “crying for grandma”, too.
I got to my hotel and spent another hour watching more footage, looking back on a season that seems so surreal now.
My evidence of my mom’s advancing dementia and the dramatic ups and downs we all endured are somehow stored on this small piece of plastic I carry around in my purse. Something in me wants to share those images, especially the ones that display her humor; but something in me also wants to guard them from scrutiny – or maybe protect myself from being criticized over something I said, or did, that somebody might misunderstand – it’s all still so raw.
Set a Timer to Write, and Then Set Yourself Free to Live
There are four and a half more minutes left on my timer, and then this writing session will be an hour.
I wonder if writing all of this is a waste of time. Maybe nobody wants to read it. Maybe I don’t even want to write it – and yet, I know everyday I am saying this type of thing in my head, so I might as well let my fingers follow suit and type my thoughts.
Tomorrow I’m to care for someone else with memory and mobility issues. I’ve been hearing more and more about others struggling with loved ones with declining health.
I think about the letters I found in the last few days, from people like my mom’s aunt Frances, sharing tenderly about her husband, who had Alzheimer’s. I think about the impact her openness had on me – and the gift of preparation she gave me just by sharing her story.
That dear woman, who I’d first heard of as “my mom’s Aunt Frances”, and later gotten to love as “my own Great Aunt Frances” – I listened to her tell about her husband losing his memory, and instruct me, as we both watched her baby sister become more and more forgetful. She showed me by her example how to graciously and tenderly navigate through a conversation when Ruth’s history overshadowed her reality.
I remember Ruth wanting to go see her mom and dad. She didn’t know they were gone. Or maybe she did.
My mom wanted to go see those same people – Granddad and Mamie – she called them – Ruth’s mom and dad. She didn’t know they were gone. Or maybe she did.
I watched Frances take her last breath, and I had no idea how even that was a lesson that I’d one day draw from when I let go of my mom, someone she’d known long before I was ever born. I could go on and on about Frances…
The bell on my cellphone just rang – those chimes are a reminder to wrap this up. Not to ramble too much. I will try to write again tomorrow, whether anyone’s waiting or not…
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