Emotional Illiterate

I have been remembering a moment in the past a lot lately.  I know why.  It is because even 13 years later, I am still searching for the conclusion to the story.  It used to be that I was hopeful for a happy ending, but these days I am not, and I wonder if I will ever be able to just let him go.

It was the week of my 26th birthday and he had come to town.  Not to visit me, so much as to visit his father and that hurt a little bit.  We had taken a drive in a car he had borrowed from my aunt and he was doing his usual “memory lane” type of tour, driving by his old haunts, past the berry fields he worked in as a teen, the Catholic church where his family once attended, the newly renovated home where his family lived years before.  He seemed to be lost in the activity; I was just along for the ride.

Our visits were not very regular or frequent.  We hardly even spoke on the phone anymore and I was hoping for a change with all of that.  So much water under the bridge…  I had been in counseling for the previous few months attempting to sort it all out, with him, with my husband, with my future.  Ignoring the past and ignoring the pain was not an option anymore.   I was desperate to move on and trying to collect the courage to do it.

The sound of the rain and the windshield wipers filled the uncomfortable silence in the car as he drove the winding back roads of rural Clark County.  I stared out the window, watching the evergreen trees flash by, trying to gather my thoughts and summon my nerve. You can do this.  You are a grown woman with two babies of your own.  He has no power over you.  It’s not like it can get any worse. The intensity of the rain was unrelenting, it seemed as if even God was nudging me on.

“Dad,” I began.  I stared hard out the front windshield of the car and began again.

“Dad, I need to tell you something.  I know it’s been a long time coming and I need to make peace with it, with you.”  I continued to fix my gaze on the soaked pavement of the winding country road.  “I know for a long time I’ve held onto a lot of hurt over you not being around for my childhood.  I haven’t been fair.  I’ve taken my anger out on you by not letting you be a part of my life.  I was hurt really bad by you, and I’m sorry I’ve been so distant with you.”

Hot tears spilled down my cheeks and I continued on, “I wanted you to be my dad and pay attention to me.  It hurt when you didn’t call or you paid more attention to Dan than me.  It hurt when you said on the night when I graduated that we would start anew and then we didn’t…” I bowed my head and sobbed out all of the pain of the previous 19 years.  “I know you haven’t asked for it but I forgive you.”

The car slowed to a stop at the side of the road.  I looked through the raindrops on the window to see a little house on the side of the road and I felt the arm of my father come around the front of my shoulder.  My insides leapt for joy as I felt the brush of his arm coming around me.  A still calm came over me, and it felt like everything around me slowed down.  I wanted to savor every second of this moment.  A moment I had yearned for over so many years.  Maybe he too, would apologize for his part in all of this pain.  Since my childhood I had dreamed of this moment and it had finally arrived, complete with a compassionate hug!

And then he spoke, and I quickly realized that I was mistaken, as he pointed to the little house on the side of the road and said in an unemotional tone, “I think I had a girlfriend who lived in that house right there.”

I wish that I could say I pulled myself together and quickly realized that I was dealing with someone who was incapable of giving me what I need, that I was able to easily move on from that day, but I cannot.  I continued to languish in those feelings of inadequacy and abandonment for longer that I would like to admit.  Eventually I have come to realize that I am worth more than he has shown me and I have come to understand that I need to let my father go, but sometimes my thoughts turn to him and I wonder if there is any hope that he will ever be anything more than that man in the car on that old country road or if he will always be an emotional illiterate.

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Remembering Her

I arrived to her room at the hospice house that night holding the innocent, naïve hands of my daughters.  As a family we had decided that maybe it was time for the grandchildren to see her for the last time.  She was declining by the hour at that point and I wanted to make sure that my girls, the oldest of the 9 grandkids, would be able to see her one last time in a way that was recognizable and not frightening.  The last 11 weeks had been so hard on them, especially my first born, who was just old enough to understand the finality of it all.  I knew after our visit tonight, my little girls would enter into a new phase of life, one that knew pain and loss in a new and profound way.  Just when I didn’t think it was possible, I hated cancer a fair measure more.

Hannah held my hand tight, tears welled in her blue eyes but none escaped to her cheeks, and she walked with the stoic grace of a woman much more mature than her 9 years, to the edge of the bed, but it was too late.  The transformation had already begun and their Grandma would never be the same.  I could see it and Hannah could see it.  Hannah laid her body against the side of the bed and stretched her tiny frame as far as she could, wrapping both her arms around the Grandma who had rocked her to sleep so many times.  Rachel timidly came from behind and joined her big sister.  Their brown hair blanketed her bed as they buried their faces in her chest.

She became lucid for a moment, aware of the embrace of her beloved granddaughters and touched their hair.  She spoke, partially profound and partially nonsensical, of her love for them and for Jesus, and for peanut butter and Cinderella.  All the while her body made random twitches that made the scene even more surreal.   A few moments passed and she had drifted back to sleep.  With tears on her chin, Rachel whispered, “Goodbye Grandma.” and my heart broke again into a million pieces.

As we walked to the waiting room I wondered how much my 7 year old would remember about her Grandma.  Would she remember her voice, her laugh, the way she talked with her hands, the certain strut in her walk?  How would I be able to keep these things alive for her when they seemed to already be fading from my own memory?  Even though her body was still with us, the disease and the drugs had stolen her from us by now.  I missed her already.  It was just so wrong that this beautiful woman, grandmother to 9 (at the time and now 12) would not be remembered by most of her grandchildren.

Six years later, I still struggle with this.  I look at my children and see glimmering pieces of her in all of them; Hannah with her walk with that ‘certain strut’ and the same ‘old soul’ maturity beyond her years, Rachel with her ‘swimmer’s body’ and her natural cooking ability and Rylon with his dimples and the way his memory is so keen like hers was.  I tell them stories, the good, the bad and the down right hilarious, but it just doesn’t seem to be enough.  We look at pictures, use the things she gave us and the things she left us, bake her recipes, we even have an old bottle of her perfume.  Something always seems to be missing.  And the stories, the things, the smells don’t quite do her justice.  And then it hits me, “Oh yeah, it’s her…  We can’t recreate her…”

But, we can keep telling the stories.  When I point to my son’s dimple and say, “That’s cute!  Where’d you get that?” he readily knows and giggles back, “Grandma Crum!” and I believe it gives him just a little bit more of the sense of love and pride about from where he came.  It is like a little connection to his past and maybe to his future.  Who knows, maybe one day, as he lovingly rubs his finger into the indent of his own child, he will say, “That’s cute!  Where’d you get that?”

So I’m asking you.  Not because I don’t remember her, but because sometimes I feel like my memory just isn’t quite enough.  Tell me, Tell us, Tell them your stories, so that her legacy of love all the other stuff can live on with them, and so that they can get to know the incredible woman that was their Grandma Crum.

Thank you,

Vicki

The Annual Grandkids Picture 2003

The Annual Grandkids Picture 2003-With Grandpa and Grandma Crum

The Annual Grandkids Picture 2004- Carrying Quilts Made By Grandma Crum

Adrift

Adrift at sea without sails.

That’s pretty much how I feel these days.

I hate it.

A few days ago I was web searching for a camping destination when I came across some pictures of the Peter Iredale.  The photos reminded me of a trip to the coast that my family took when I was a kid.  The decayed ribs of the ship were haunting.  I don’t remember the exact story of this ship, and quite frankly I don’t have the gumption to look it up right now, all I know is that more than 100 years ago it ran aground and couldn’t break free.  It must have been quite the disaster.  As it has sat in it’s grounded state the Pacific Ocean waves, sea salt and wind have taken what was once a functioning, mighty four-masted ship and turned it into a skeleton of it’s former self.   Imagine for a moment if the ship had never run aground, or an even more exciting scenario, imagine the crew in the fight of their lives and narrowly escaping disaster…  There would be no sad story to tell.  There may have even been a harrowing tale of victory.

 

The Peter Iredale

 

Adrift at sea without sails.

I have to get past this.

I hope you’ll hang with me, and give me a shout out now and then.  I could use the moral support, and after all, that’s what friends do.

A New Chapter

About a year ago I wrote this: https://withlovemom.wordpress.com/2009/09/14/my-son-nemo-and-growing-up/ .  Boy I’m feeling those words today!

This is what I did this morning:

I took these pictures

Of my baby boy

Heading down the path

Toward a new adventure.

Did I really write all of that last year?  I hope Marlin swam away and cried…

Because, that’s exactly what I am going to go do.

A Tale Of 2 U2 Tix

There once was a pathetic U2 fan

Who begged and begged her real life man

To satisfy her musical expectations

And take her once more to magnificent U2 elevations

Oh how she wanted 2 U2 tix

She begged and begged  so, so much

That he could never deny her such

At least she was being honest

She had, in fact, become a “Bonist”

And he bought her 2 U2 tix

Convincingly so

Her love for Bono

That two friends also

Just had to go

And they also bought 2 U2 tix

But alas the calendar was not kind

Her friend had temporarily lost her mind

And when the Irish Rock Band plans to take the stage

She and her family wrote something else on the page!

So she would not be using the 2 U2 tix

Sadly she told me she would have to forfeit

Could not even try to somehow morph it.

Even though she wanted to see

A nonsensical crazy fan just like me!

Also using 2 U2 tix

Now what to do?

2 U2 tix, but who?

Who would be using the 2 U2 tix?

The hunt was on for the perfect pair

They will have to be fun and willing to dare

To go to a concert featuring The Edge

And not sit in their seats content to veg

If they want to use the 2 U2 tix

I do not care if they find my fascination curious

But please do not just stand there and be furious

Anyone normal would watch with curiosity

A fan that participates with such voracity!

Should they choose to use the 2 U2 tix!

I think the spectacle will give them proof

I do appreciate this music of my youth!

Who would be able to tolerate me so high strung?

Why of course!  Someone who knew me when I was young!

That is who should use the 2 U2 tix!

Wow!  Been 20 years since we were teenagers

Hanging around at youth group all nighters!

The last time I saw her I was a teenybopper

On the radio they probably still played Cyndi Lauper!

She will be perfect to take the 2 U2 tix

Someone who will tolerate my U2 adulation

And also understands my wild perspiration

Her company will be by far the best

I hope she still likes me after I have been a U2 pest!

So glad to have found this taker for the 2 U2 tix!

This Guy Not That Guy

I get teased a fair amount about my love for all things U2.  Some have even pushed the line a little bit and suggested I have a mad celebrity crush on Bono.  I laugh.  I laugh because I am blissfully married to the man of my dreams!  I love him more and more every day.  We have a love story that is unrivaled and over 20 years after our first meeting he still makes me weak in the knees.  I am so incredibly in LOVE with this man!  and will be until my dying day.  He is and forever will be the only one for me.

In a couple weeks we will celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary!  So many jokes about the seven year itch, but not here.  I am hopelessly in love with this man!

Yeah, I know it’s an old picture, but isn’t he just an all out 80’s masterpiece!  He is F.I.N.E. fine, in my book!  Funny how about the time I was falling head over heals IN LOVE with this guy, I was listening to this guy…

Now, at the time, this guywas not being mistaken for this guy

And this guy with this car

was not being mistaken for this guy with this car

They may look a little alike

But something isn’t quite right

Yes, I know that’s not Bono!  It’s U2’s Adam Clayton, silly!

But then a funny thing happened last year.  I posted this picture of this man on my facebook page.

and people, people that knew him “back in the day” thought the man in this picture was actually, this man…

I mean, I could see some similarities,

They are both quite dramatic sometimes, both talented musicians, both handsome.

But, I was a total goner the first time I laid eyes on this man…

I can’t take my eyes off of him!

This man could never be enough.

Because I have this man and he is everything to me.

As he has been.  For a very, very long time.

And my heart has found it’s home.

As for the photos, obviously I have not taken all of these.  They come from a collection a U2 geek like me has amassed on her computer hard drive.  I would be happy to credit the photographers who deserve the credit!  Photo of my husband and saxophone, courtesy of Karl Hutchinson.  Also sorry some are so small!  I’ll work on that! 🙂

The Best Part of My Birthday

I added another year to my age this week!  I don’t mind birthdays.  They are a sign of life and a marker that reminds me that the good Lord has blessed me with another years worth of days.  I also like the way my little family celebrates birthdays.  I thought I’d share with you about my favorite part.

The written words…

Somewhere along the line we decided that everyone gets to choose, for the birthday honoree, their own individual card.  This is the selection for me from my dream man and the kids for this year.  I especially love how each of my children take such care to write in the cards to add their own personal touch.  They even write messages on the envelopes!

This one is from my little guy…

I melt when I see the little pre school handwritings of my little ones.  You know, when you’re in the middle of those years when they are little and need you so much for every little thing… “Can you tie my shoes?”  “I want a snaaaaack!”  “There’s thunder, can I sleep in your room?”  and no trip to Target ever goes with out the inevitable question, “Can we visit the Toys Section?”  Wow, those years are challenging!  Not enough sleep, not enough time for yourself, everything you wear has the fingerings of slobbery graham crackers before you ever leave the house, and you’ve seen your precious little boy use your skirt as a napkin!   It feels like a time in your life when it will never be over and they will never grow up.  It feels like you will never again see the words, “Dry Clean Only” in the tag of a sweater and consider it a viable wardrobe choice.  It feels like you will never again be able to have an adult conversation with your husband where you don’t end up squaking, “What!?” like a jungle bird, at your sweet little blue eyed girl who has just interrupted for the 342 bajillionth time!  It feels like you will never be able to walk through a parking lot without experiencing the feeling of your arm being nearly ripped from the socket as your wiggly boy hop, skips, and jumps along, all while you grip his gooey little hand.  And every day you wonder, “Will the Family Room rug always be covered by all these toys?”

An then one day, they give you a give you a card, and the preschool writing has been replaced.  That little blue eyed interrupter has done it again! Interrupted the fantasy you have in your mind that she’s a little girl and she will never grow up and she will never not be your little baby girl.

Oh, she’ll tell you she’s your ‘Baby girl,” but that’s just to be cute and endearing.  She know’s all your soft spots.  And you melt.

And then she tells you how ‘prodigous’ you are …  And you can’t help but smile because she’s so stinkin’ cute.  And she’s becoming so stunningly beautiful that you know if you dare leave the table, the busy-boy at the restaurant is going to try and get her number…

And your other little blue eyed girl tells you she is finally beginning to understand who you are…

And that someday she wants to be the best mom in the world, too…  And you can’t help but see how wise she’s becoming.  She’s actually noticing all the effort you’ve put into raising her and she appreciates it!  And you can see that the next 4 years are going to go by so fast… and your little chrysalis is, very soon, going to open up.  And you imagine the amazing butterfly she will be.   What amazing butterflies that they all will be!

And you melt.

The written words are the best part.

And in case you were wondering, yes, my husband gave me one too.  He really is the man of my dreams!

Where the Time Went!

Hello!  I know it’s been a long time since I’ve written anything of significance around here.  Sorry I’ve been away so long!  I’ve been thinking about that word ‘Busy’ and how so often I use it as a blanket excuse for not keeping up with the people who are important to me.  How many times I’ve answered the inquiry of a friend with the words, “I’ve been so busy!”  only to not really be able to come up with a single real ‘thing’ that has truly occupied my time!  So this morning I took a minute to refresh my memory and put together a little (ok, so it’s not that little…) scrapbook of where the time went.  Take a trip back to mid February with me!  We’ll pick up with just after my middle girl’s 13th birthday and Valentine’s Day and end with last night.

Swim meet season in February…

Our middle child is a swimmer.

Choir Concert!  This is our oldest.  Isn’t she cute?!

Our middle child is in this choir…

Chamber Choir.  The oldest is in this one.  Did I mention that between all 3 kids they are in 5 choirs?

Sole…  Yeah, I’m workin’ on it!

I repainted the Family Room and hung new shelves with some of my favorite candid pictures… This is the green wall…  the rest of the walls in the family room and kitchen were also repainted as well.  They are boring beige…  and I added a new valance in the kitchen.  In February.  That my dear husband just noticed.  On Friday.  3 days ago.

First Day of Spring in Iowa…  Snow!  I wanted to cry…  Instead my son and I started some seedlings of SUNflowers and Basil…

Have I mentioned that my kids get a lot of homework?  They are great students *thankfully* so I don’t have to nag them to do it, but it never seems to end!  This is Randy with our younger girl.  She loves school!  Her friends are there…

Anxiously awaiting the sprout of a seedling.  He loves, I mean LOVES, ‘making flowers’ and anything involving a garden!

The World’s BEST Dad and Grandpa came for a Spring visit.  I haven’t seen him in a beard like this since around 1981!  I told our little guy that Grandpa is really Santa Claus and for just a minute I saw “the look”.  You know the one, when you know they believe you, and then the moment was gone.  That’s ok.  I know he believed me for a second and I got “the look” of pure,  innocent, suspension of all reality.

The World’s BEST Dad and Grandpa and I re-stained the deck.  Mission Brown from Cabot, for inquiring minds who want to know.

We took a day trip to Springfield, Illinois while The World’s BEST Dad and Grandpa was in town, because that just the kind of thing we do.   We’re road trippers.  It’s a big world out there, get out there and see some of it!  Anyway, Springfield, Illinois is where President Abraham Lincoln’s Tomb, Museum and Library, and Residence while he was a Lawyer and Senator are located.  It was a beautiful day!

Father and son.  I’m a blessed lady!

Our awesome teenage girls!

Our crew + The World’s BEST Dad and Grandpa!  We’re standing in front of the house where Lincoln lived.

A boy, a stick and a fence.  Isn’t that what you’d want to do?

And now, let’s check in with the spouts…

Looking Great!

Track Season Begins!  First up:  100 meeter dash!

My AWESOME and HANDSOME Husband’s Birthday!  Lame-O me 😦 … This is the only picture from the party!

Oooops!  Almost forgot Easter Sunday!  This was our crew all dressed up!

Who are these young women and why do they keep calling me mommy?  I can’t believe how fast my little girls are becoming young women!  They are beautiful inside and out!

Shaggy Boy is shaggy because he had a run in with the stairway hand rail and has a nice gash under that mop of hair and we have now taken our first trip (with him) to the Emergency Room.

Preschooler Picking Pinecones at the Park…  Precious.

Time to give these plants a new pot!   By the way, what is wrong with my hand?  Frightening!  I’ll try not to scare you like that again!

This kid LOVES planting!  And playin’ outside!  We’ve had a BEAUTIFUL Spring, minus that one unruly day, and can’t get enough of the back yard!

I love how much this girl loves her baby brother… makes my heart melt!

More track meets!

Discus…

Friends…

and Shot!

Our oldest was in the Junior High Talent Show!  She sang, The Bare Necessities,” as Baloo the bear from The Jungle Book. She did a fantastic job!

My boys in a big box… er… spaceship…

Does it get anymore fun that this?

Hmmm… a leftie?  Maybe.

Or maybe not.  I wish he’d decide!

I just love that smile!

and finally… we went to a birthday party yesterday and this is what the boy came home with!

Well, the balloon helmet and a boat load of candy!

Still with me?  Thanks!  I hope you enjoyed catching up with me!  I hope you’ll catch me up too!  And I promise, I won’t leave you hanging so long next time!

She’ll Wear Blue

Entering the auditorium for freshman orientation, the screen at the front of the room reads, “Welcome Class of 2014!”   The year is a little piece of trivia that I had stuffed away in the back of my mind years ago when I finally decided what year she was going to start Kindergarten and haven’t thought a lot of it since.  My first born has an autumn birthday so it was up for debate, but in the end I decided to keep her home for a bonus year and it has proven to be an excellent decision.  Making that decision seems like a lifetime ago and yesterday all at the same time.  How is that possible?  I feel the knot of emotion tighten in my throat and steady myself.  I don’t want to be ‘that mom’ and it would be so easy to ‘get all emotional’ right now.

As we find our seats in the auditorium of the high school, I have that surreal feeling like I am living someone else’s life, because this one, I am certain, could not be mine, given my daughter is still, after all, just a little girl.  Isn’t she?  Yeah, I know…  not really.

Truthfully, over the years I have not given a lot of thought about the day she will graduate from high school.  She has always been fairly ‘easy’.  Nothing has ever really thrown me for a loop with her.  It’s just been an assumption that some day these high school days too would come.  Now, as I listen to the guidance counselor begin his ‘This is how much high school has changed since you were in it you old parents’ spiel, those thoughts of the next four years, those mysterious school years that, like ‘Kindergarten’, are given special names and not just a number, have my heart beating just a little bit faster!  Not because I don’t think she is prepared or capable, on the contrary, I’m proud to say she is a far better student than I was in every way!  No, it is because this man giving his shtick keeps talking about how fast it will go.

I find myself thinking back to when I graduated from high school.  One of my favorite photos of that night is of my father and me.  We are standing together in the stadium, he in his navy blue sport coat and tie, a proud smile and misty eyes, and me, wearing my emerald green graduation robe and mortar board hat, my entire face beaming and in my hands a bag of confetti.  The moment seems like yesterday and then I am pulled back to reality.  The guidance counselor scrolls through his Power Point presentation and the photo in my mind transforms.  This time the picture is still of me, but now I’m the one grinning with pride and misty eyed, and the beaming graduate is now my lovely girl… and thanks to the image on the screen a new piece to the unknown puzzle comes in to view.  She’ll wear blue.

Class of 1990, my how time flies!

Saying Goodbye

As I made my way past the crowded waiting room, I hoped that I was first to catch the door when the privacy curtain receded.  I had enlisted my husband in my plan.  He would guard the door while I was inside, so that I could steal time alone with her.  Getting time alone with everybody’s favorite patient was challenging, there were always people visiting!  As much as I was thankful for their tangible support, I was growing weary of their constant presence.  I wanted some of those precious and few moments for myself and I didn’t want to have to shoo someone away so that I could get it.

Precious and few.  Those words rang in my head with the urgency of the obnoxious beep a 4 am alarm clock, all too early, and imploring my immediate attention, even in my disoriented state.  There was no way of knowing how long we had with her, but we all must have sensed the critical timing because the visitors were always there.  They came to her bedside in steady stream, like the flow unconscious thought, one blending seamlessly into the next.  Unaware of when they arrived, where they would be on their way to, how long they planned to stay, many with the stunned blank faces of grief.   Friends from church and from her neighborhood, friends who shared her hobbies, friends from work, friends who were like family and friends who were also family.  On the way home from work, after church, before heading to the store, just because they were in the neighborhood… each one stopping for “just a minute.”

I understood why they came.  They were drawn to her light.  They were drawn to her strength and peace.  They were drawn to her hopeful anticipation of heaven.

So many visitors came to see her while she was sick that she was rarely alone.  I was happy that so many people were expressing their love and support of her and the rest of our family, but I would be lying if said I loved having them around all the time.  The truth is, I needed some time alone with her, some time to say our goodbyes, because when all of this was over, all of the visitors would go home to their mother, daughter, son, husband or wife and I would not.  Even though I had my own family, as a daughter, I would be going it alone.  As the clock marched on at merciless pace, I grew anxious. These were my precious and few.

The door opened and as I stepped into her room my husband assumed his post on the other side.  I drew a deep breath.  My mind was full of questions that I had come to attempt to answer.  How do I tell my mother I love her in a way that will satisfy my soul when she is gone?  How do I thank her “from the bottom of my heart?”  How do I say goodbye?

Inside her room it was finally quiet, nothing to distract us, nothing to intrude.

“Hi Mama,” I said, “Hope you don’t mind, I’m stealin’ some alone time.”  She smiled at me with tired eyes, and looking so small and fragile in her hospital bed, as she raised it to a sitting position.  It somehow seemed inappropriate when she spoke with such care for me.

“Sure, honey.  How are you getting along with all of this?” she asked.  “Are you doing all right?  Randy? The kids?  I know this has got to be such a hard time for you…”  Her voice softened with emotion.

With a plan, I pulled a chair away from the side of the bed.

I asked, “Mama, do you think you’d be able to sit up for a little bit, or if you need to you can lie down?”

“I’m fine sitting just like this,” she replied.  “What are we doin’?”

As she patiently waited for my reply, I took the pink basin from her bedside table and walked to the sink in silence.  Standing at the sink, I filled the little pink basin with warm water and I looked at her reflection in the mirror as she lay in the bed behind me.  The woman in the bed, though battle damaged with IV’s, catheters, and bags, was still my beautiful mother.  Her head on the pillow, still capped with wonderfully thick short brown hair, her eyes still blue as sapphires.  A smile was wide on her face and brimming with hope, and I wondered how she sustained it.  Even in her weary body, she sat with poise, straight, with the same beautiful broad shoulders of a swimmer and her hands folded in her lap.   A plush pale blue robe draped over her shoulders and one delicately shaped ankle and stockinged foot extended from under the crisp hospital bed sheet providing her famous “vent” to keep her from getting “bed hot.”  A trait I have also inherited.  With my now full basin of water and a towel, I rejoined her sitting next to her on the bed.  The spicy sweet fragrance that came from her, the mother of my childhood, was the smell of her perfume Youth Dew.  All the essential elements of “her” were still there.

“Vicki,” she said, “are you going to wash my feet?”  How did she know?  It seemed the only fitting way to express the love and gratitude I felt for her presence in my life.

“Yes, if that’s all right with you.” I said in a near whisper, and she bowed her head to say yes.  She moved both of her feet from under the sheet and I slid off her socks.

On my knees before her I began.   The litany of praise for her as my mother, mentor and friend poured from my heart and out my mouth.

The litany of thankfulness for the sacrifices she made to be a stay at home mom instead of putting a career first, to go without a something for her self so that I could have anything from braces to a prom dress.  For all the times she would have liked to spend a week away with my Dad and instead sent me on a school or youth group trip.  I thanked her for sending me to college and seeing to it that I lived in the dorms even though I could have lived at home.  The water and the cloth were now a channel of respect and admiration.

The litany of humility and gratitude for her forgiveness even when I was too stubborn to ask for it, for the times I didn’t respect her as my mother or even as someone who had traveled the road before me, when I was insensitive and selfish.  Even for the time that an 18 year old me I told her I wasn’t going to waste my life staying home with my kids like she did, the cleansing and warm restorative water carried the pain between us away and was replaced with a river of peace.

The litany of praise for the wonderful example she was to me as a mother and grandmother, the beautiful example of what a good marriage can be like, the way she strove to live with Christ as her example.  All gifts that cannot be given without intention and vision, and I wanted her to know, with my basin beside me, that I was aware of that.  I wanted her to know that I admired her authentic faith and her extravagant love.  With my water I wanted to honor her and I knew she understood.

It was a gift to be able to, in my own way, get to say goodbye to her in that sacred moment  that day, even though she was still with us for more than a month.   Watching Cancer scavenge the life out of her physical body was excruciating, but more bearable knowing that nothing between us was left undone.  When the night came for us to sing to her heaven’s lullaby, as she stepped to the other side, I knew that there was nothing left incomplete, nothing that had not been washed clean.