There’s a song called ‘Hazelnut Butter’ by Medium Troy. One line says, “I want everyone to call their mom right now and let her know that she’s the shit.” The first time I heard the song, I called my mom directly after. “So, you think I’m the shit?” she said laughing. My mom passed away last year. All I’m saying, is every chance you get to tell someone that you love them, do it. I’m glad I did that day.
I am gone away, in part, since your passing.
I have no beginning without your home,
and in your end, I am gone away.
When you would sing, I would listen and look
up into your eyes before I had the word
‘beauty’ to shine up at your face.
All my words came from your first
“I love you.” The foundation of my language
is your embrace.
I know the meaning of the word, not just
in the breakdown of sounds, but by your
relentless pursuit of my heart.
You were a force, and the wind has not died
since you’ve gone. The trees are permanently
bent from your crushing blows.
You dared me to love greatly; you lavished me
with praise. Everything I am is you and you are
everything to me. A home is not a building,
made of wood and nails. A home is not this place
or that place where we lived. A home is you,
my mother. You are my home.
My perspective is real wide now,
but my vision is like way narrow.
The word “Love” sounds like
when you shout into a bottomless well.
Well, maybe there’s a bottom,
but how would we know, ya know?
We keep seeing you everywhere.
I saw you a whole lot today in the
back of the TJ Maxx on Madison.
There were those peppermint-bark tins
that you used to get, I was gunna get Miss
a picture frame, but I couldn’t wait in the line.
You waited in every line for us.
I don’t know how ya did it.
You said every Christmas would be small,
but that was always a lie.
I don’t think you meant to lie.
I think you genuinely thought
you couldn’t pull it off some years,
but oh, man you did.
I don’t know what I’ll miss more,
your Christmas village magic –
or the thought of you waiting in all
those lines; a big smile on your face
when you began to realize … that year
was gunna be bigger than the last … again.
I stared at all your faces
Sombre, though bright alike
They came from all your places
Some drove through the night
I recited poems and sang
The worship songs you’d want
My bright guitar strings rang
Hid my tears all nonchalant
It was impossible indeed
To see your daughter cry
Our simple family creed
Is try, then give, then try
Many wished they’d’ve spoke
Too hard a thing to do
I tried to calm them with a joke
And head back laugh in lieu
In pictures, young I saw
Your face lit up with glee
God’s gift of grace and awe
For many eternity
I know I did you proud
Don’t have to wish a thing like that
Your people sang real loud
I acted as diplomat
I closed with that poem
I read to you that day
Not ever a time alone
When that poem I hear you say
When that poem kneels down to pray
We got everything in order for you.
The disability benefits for your final months.
The life insurance so we can pay off the house.
The automatic payments for the energy bill.
The files are in order.
The mail’s been checked.
The cars are paid off.
The radiation is done.
The chemo is through.
No more doctor’s appointments.
We got everything in order for you,
“Right down to the urn.”
When you’re gone, return to dust
I’ll be alright, You’ll have to trust
You’re only boy, your “favorite son”
I’ll be fine, when your day is done
Miss has my back, and I have hers
Thick as blood, more than words
The joy of friends, I’m sealed with love
Only good comes from above
Think of the place you’ll get to be!
Golden courts for eternity!
A place of rest, for a body worn
A Savior king, the curtain torn
Peace forever! Not for a time!
A whole new body! A whole new mind!
Cancer is a forgotten word!
It’s name is never, ever heard!
You’ll run and jump and maybe fly!
And never, ever say goodbye!
Only love, that’s all you’ll know!
You and me, we know it’s so!
No more bad, no more pain!
Two more completely forgotten names!
All your words get whittled down
And somehow “Love” is the only sound
You’ll see your dad, you’ll see your mom
And all the others, who have passed on
Run into – your daddy’s arms
And gaze upon his million charms
A loving mom, ‘til the day you die
But we keep it here, with us inside
I think what I’ll remember clear
Your steady saying, “I love you, dear.”
I love you mum!
There were a lot of heavy conversations today. I spent the afternoon with my mom discussing things that would be helpful to her given that she is confined to her house. We talked about setting up a cleaning service. We talked about getting help mowing the lawn. We talked about getting groceries delivered. All of these things being a part of the new normal.
I have felt ashamed many times that I cannot due more for my mom as her son. I want to do the cleaning that needs done. I want to mulch and mow the lawn and weed the grass. I want to get the groceries.
I can’t do all those things and help my mom get to her appointments and be her confidant through all of this and keep my sanity. When my family is not in town, it’s just me. I am the first and last line of defense. There’s a part of me that really wants to help, but there’s a bigger part of me that wants to be seen by my community as “the great helper.”
This part is a matter of pride.
I don’t necessarily want to do what it takes to be a good person, I just want the glory that comes with being seen that way. I want people to think so, so highly of me. It is a toxic situation that I know a lot of people can relate with. I’m working on it, that’s what I’ll say for now.
My mom has been devastated by the neglect that my father has shown her since they got divorced. He doesn’t return her calls, or emails, or texts and that crushes her. She has struggled to understand why the man that married her has abandoned her. She feels that he doesn’t care whether she lives or dies.
She has said that line many times in the last 6 years, but now the “or dies” part seems more real as she stares down death with her chemo treatments and radiation as a result of her diagnosis of stage 4 cancer.
I understand that my mom is hurting. She is hurting more than I’ve ever seen a person hurt, but sometimes I can’t handle the conversations about my dad. I am my parent’s son. I have their blood coursing through my veins and hearing about my dad’s shortcomings drudges up a lot of pain for me.
Those were hard conversations today between my mother and I.
When I came home, I went to dinner with my best friends, Stephen and Michaelah. We talked and we laughed and watched SNL clips after we got back home. But then the conversation got heavy when we started talking about my mom. Sometimes I don’t want to make conversations heavy, but there always seems to be heavy things happening to me so, I guess it just kinda comes out. I talked about how I didn’t want to have to go through the things I was dealing with. I talked about how, if I could choose, I would wish for just about any other situation.
I am selfish.
I want the easy way, the way that affords me the most comfort and relaxation and joy. I think most people, given the choice, would choose the easy way too most of the time. I don’t want these things to be happening to my mom. I don’t want to live in a world filled with cancer and brokenness and pain and suffering.
But here I am. And here we all are.
Stephen told me to stop viewing myself as a victim in this whole situation, which was a hard pill to swallow. I am a victim, but I understand what he is getting at. I have to choose hard things to help my mom because I love her even when I want to just relax. I have to fight for her even when we argue about my dad because we are both tremendously hurt by the divorce.
I have to. There is no other choice in my mind.
Even though I want the easy way so bad, that’s not what I have in front of me. Instead I have a road that twists and turns and might be dangerous just around the bend.
Every single day so far, in my entire life, I have gotten out of bed. I am going to continue this trend even when I want to curl up and die. I say all this because we are all going through a lot and sometimes we need to know someone else has been there. Keep Pressing On!
It was the warmest day in early fall. Faint, wispy clouds above, water running slowly over fragments of glacial rock beneath.
There I am standing, ankle high in the water, and I’m thinking about just how perfect this feels. Some folks gather at the rocky banks. My mother joins me in the water along with my friend, Stephen.
We wade out into the center of the Little Miami River and I trudge through the water trying to find a deep pocket to stand. Stephen and I hold my mother’s hands. I ask her if she is ready to be washed clean of her sins.
I say that as she is submerged beneath the water, it is a symbol of being buried in the grave with Christ, and that as she comes to the surface, she will be a new creation, a symbol of the resurrection of Jesus. She says she is ready to be made new. She never learned to swim and is glad the water is not too deep.
We lower her body down into the water and the slow current courses over her. We raise her up and she exhales and smiles. Then, my friend and my mother grab my hands. They tell me that what I am about to do is a response to how much God loves me. My mother tells a story of me proclaiming my love for God when I was a boy. They dip me into the water and raise me up. There is cheering for my mother and I from the banks.
Make us new, Lord. We are thankful for this baptism day and hold it as a reminder that while our clothes will become soiled again, you can wash us clean and that you delight in redeeming us. Your desire to bring us back to you never fades. Your resolve is unending. I pray Lord, that not one would be lost, for even if one is lost, then our sum in none. I pray that we would be a complete body when we are returned to our former glory. I pray that we would forgive one and other like you forgive us. Lord, this season has been difficult for my mother and I. I pray that we would not give up loving each other well. I confess that I think I know what’s best, even now. There are things in this life that seem so unnecessarily painful. I want them to go away. Make them go away, Lord. Please. From a man full of doubt. A man whose faith is as strong as a dead leaf in autumn. Tossed and turned by a slight wind. One day I hope to be like that river, Lord. That made up its mind when it will bend. Amen.
She sketched a picture of me,
with sharp pencil marks
that stuck to my semblance
I looked like my father
when she was finished
and then I missed the family
we used to have
We used to be so beautiful
Our smiles as wide as
the picture frames
But now, when we say your name…
Well, we don’t use each other’s names anymore
But, remember when we used to?
That was nice, wasn’t it?
We used to go to Disney World every summer
in a RV for Christ sake!
Now look at us –
strangers we’d sit next to on the bus
and miss completely
It didn’t end so neatly
but then, it never does, does it?
I wish we could all sit in the TV room one more time,
and watch some Disney movie
that would bring us all back together again
We decided we’d tape over our memories instead
And see if the eternal sunshine was true,
In our spotless minds
“At some point in your childhood,
your mother set you down and
never picked you up again.”