Monday, March 16, 2015

The Aftermath

We had my mother's funeral last weekend. There was a beautiful private service for just family at the cemetery, and a public memorial at the church.

The church no longer occupies the large imposing building on Main Street where I grew up from earliest memory, attending Sunday school every week, singing in the children's choir and watching the wheel of community turn until one day it found itself dying. The dynamics of the community changed during the late 80's and early 90's, and the costs in keeping the big church running were no longer met by weekly tithes.

My mother was an elder during the change over, on her way out of service and grieving for the loss of the building that had seen births and weddings, and my father's funeral. It is never easy to move a house of worship. I know ghosts walk the halls of the old church; I've heard them before. I wonder do they bother the new congregation walking those corridors; do they understand why things have changed?

Upon arriving at the new location, I was immediately struck with the similarity in building layout to the old church. Once inside I was surrounded by familiar faces and comforting reminders of the years and history of the congregation itself. Included was the wall of pictures showing the different faces of building they had occupied in their 126+ year existence.

The minister had us, the family, crowd together around the large session table to tell stories of my mother. As I looked around, the positive and healing energy of family wrapped itself around me and I felt, for the first time since Mother's death, at peace. I know my mother is at peace in heaven and totally happy to be reunited with my dad and her other relatives. There is no reason to weep, for at last she is free.

Watching the faces of those around me, family, friends, relatives, casual acquaintances, I saw a microcosm of the people whose lives my mother touched as a librarian. People seemed shorted, wider, older than I remembered, another slap of the wheel of time across my face. But the love and warmth they radiated took me in their arms and assured me I am not alone in this time of grief.

A building is not a church. A church is a collection of like minded people sharing and growing in God's love and word. No where was that more exquisitely made clear than at my home church this past weekend.

Some where up in heaven, Mother is smiling.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Where Have I Been and When Can I Go Back?

It's been a while since I wrote on this blog. I always meant to but somehow never seemed to find the time. I've had a busy couple of years between work and home, along with trying to get my writing career up  and going. It gets very disheartening when some people publish three or four books a year and my minimum from idea to submission for one book runs about two years.

Part of my dark thoughts have been due to turning 50 a few years ago, but also the diminishing mental capacities of my mother. It was hard to call and wish her happy birthday back in October (she was 94) when she no longer remembered who I was. She has had a full life and as her end was growing near I have found myself reflective.

My mother was a unique woman. She worked at a time when most women were expected to be housewives; hell, she had a Masters degree when women rarely went to college much less graduate school. Her position as high school librarian fueled my love of books and stories from an early age. Some of my favorite memories are filled with the smell of books and the quiet of reading.

She met my father during the war, World War II that is. Three months is all it took, if I remember the story correctly, before my mother walked in the July heat from the front gate of the army base in Lubbock Texas to the chapel to be Mrs. Walter V. They had a lot in common, my parents. Both were eldest children, both had strained relationships with their mothers, and they understood the meaning of a wounded soul.

My father and I worked the same shift while I was in high school, both returning home in the wee hours of the morning. We talked of many things, including my parents and their stories. I treasure that time with him. But my mother and I had that day to day ignoring each other teenager/parent relationship and many years I spent curled against the car window silently counting the moments we were trapped in the vehicle together.

Daddy died in the early 90's. It was too soon. But out of that sadness and grief came a renewed relationship with my mother. When my daughter was born, she drove up every week from below the Atlanta airport to our house northwest of the city to take care of her so I could work. My children spent days at her house, filling up on Mr. P's pizzas and watching television. I rediscovered my mother, and we spoke often, sometimes about nothing at all.

When she turned 90, it was obvious things were beginning to age. We all dread her driving anywhere that involved the highways around Atlanta. If you've ever driven here, you can probably attest to the insanity which afflicts us whenever we put our vehicles in drive and head out. In response to a falling incident which resulted in her being out of communication for several hours at a time when she should have been home, Momma moved into my brother's home about 4 years ago.

None of us remember exactly when her mind began to stumble, it started with repeated stories and forgotten names. Then came the hours where she would stare at my father's pictures, not speaking a word not moving from her room for hours on end. Her legs began to give out on her and falling became a grave concern, especially after she gave herself a black eye.

She missed my father, she missed her friends and her community. Most of all, she missed being useful. That was the part she found hardest to bear. Her big heart never stopped wanting to help wherever she could. A bright mind with a failing body is frustration as both my parents discovered. All Mother wanted was to be useful and independent again. Now she is.

My mother had a serious stroke the middle of February, with a significant brain bleed in the right parietal lobe. After my father's lengthy illness, my mother had a strict Living Will -- no resuscitation, no feeding tubes, nothing to extend life. She lingered about five days before gently passing from this life to another.

Even though I had mentally been preparing myself for mother's death, it has still hit me hard. A large hole has opened in my chest and nothing feels real. Rationally I know she is in a much better place and that one day we will be together again. But the little girl deep inside me still wants her Momma and I don't know that will ever change.

Love your parents, especially if you have been estranged from them for reasons so silly as to not make a difference. One day, perhaps far in the distant future if you are as lucky as we were, they won't be here, and you will never be able to count the times you pick up the phone to tell them something and remember no one will answer. The words you never say will back up and hang in your throat until you think you will suffocate.

My goal for this year is to recommit myself to my everyday job, my writing, and myself. I will attempt to post something every other week this year. Momma would have wanted me to.