Mourning Mercies

The other day I went to Culver’s to pick up lunch. At the drive thru window I saw a young African American man that has worked there for many years. He gave me a bright smile and asked, “How are you?”

“Im fine,” I said, as I smiled and handed him some cash.

“How’s your mom and dad?”

“Mom passed away,” I said. He looked sad as he took my money and turned to the cash register. “Mom passed away, ” I repeated, and I tried to smile a bit, to show him it was okay to ask. And that I was okay. He nodded sadly as he handed me my change, and drink.

I pulled ahead to wait for my order. And the heaviness of mourning came over me. My thoughts flashed back to the past, when Mom was still able to get out, and every Tuesday I took her and Dad to Culver’s, and Dad bought us all lunch. I remembered sitting in the booth across from them, as they sat shoulder to shoulder. I thought of the managers who got to know us because of our frequent visits, and who were so friendly and kind.

I remembered how whenever Mom got up to use the restroom, or when it was time to leave, if there were any little children or babies around she would stop to talk to them. And I would wonder what the parents thought, as they smiled. Sometimes Mama would point her cane right at a little one’s face to tease them. Then I would apologize for Mama and draw her away.

There was something sweet about sitting in a booth with Mom and Dad. I’d run to refill their sodas. I’d order frozen custard cones when we were done with our meals.

Eventually it became too hard to take Mom out. I’d bring food home instead. And the managers and some of the staff at Culver’s would ask how Mom and Dad were doing. It was nice that they were known and thought of fondly.

Because so many of the people who have offered sympathy to me over the past few months never knew my mama. I’m so grateful for the love and concern they’ve expressed to me over my loss. I know it’s heartfelt and real.

But there is a special comfort in hearing from those who actually knew my precious Mama. Most of her friends have already passed on or moved away, and our extended family all live far away. When a former neighbor, who had moved out of state decades ago, heard about Mom’s death she sent a sympathy card. She shared memories and kind words about Mom that touched my heart. And I felt compelled to send her a program from the memorial service and a copy of the eulogy I had written.

I feel drawn to those who knew Mama, especially those of her own generation, when she was full of life and health. Like somehow if I connect with them I’m closer to Mom again.

But Mom’s best friends went Home ¬†before her. And I picture them now welcoming her in heaven with hearty hugs and big smiles. I can see them sitting around a table, shoulder to shoulder, sipping tea and sharing stories and laughing.

And so I can smile, even though it’s often through tears these days. And I’m thankful for the friendly young man who asked about Mom and Dad at Culver’s. Even though he didn’t know what to say, I could tell he cared.

And there is a gentle mercy in knowing Mama is remembered.

 

 

 

Keep the Love

Sometimes I truly believe God speaks His wisdom through Mama, despite her severe dementia, and sends me the words I need to hear…

It has been such a hard week. Without going into details, let me just say, that when a family is sharing caregiving responsibilities, people can feel over worked and overwhelmed. And when we see a loved one declining emotions run strong, and sometimes too loudly.

Even the most loving people can disagree about what needs to happen when and how, and what is best for all concerned. And sometimes people speak in the stress of it all and say things they don’t really mean. And backs and bodies can be injured moving Mama and feelings can be injured by attitudes and words.

Sometimes you cry the whole drive to church and wonder if you should even go in to offer worship to God  when you know there is a whole wall of hurt between you and a family member that needs to come down and the weight of it all sits on your heart.

And I’m thankful for my wise husband, who sympathizes with me, but urges me to give grace. And reminds me of the stress we’re all under and the grieving we are all going through. And he says to me, “The important thing is to keep loving each other.” And keep forgiving. And don’t let Satan win ground here. And I know he is right.

So some of us apologized. And talked. And we cried and hugged each other. And others of us somehow found a wordless peace.

And then my daughter texted last night, as she was putting Mama to bed.

And the text read, “Grandma says…’Keep the love.'”

And my eyes misted and my heart warmed. And I felt like God was advising me through my Mama once again.

Keep the love.

What perfect words.

Yes, Mama, with God’s help we will. You raised a loving family. And you nurtured us well. And you poured love into your children and grandchildren. You filled us up, Mama.

And I pray that through all these challenges we won’t lose a drop of that love. I pray rather that our love will grow stronger, for God and each other. And that He will help us persevere through the hard stuff. And I pray that His love will fill us to overflowing and spill out so all around us know His love.

And I pray that you feel and know that love, Mama. I pray that you know how cherished and honored you are.

And with God’s help, we will keep the love, until we are all gathered together again for eternity.