It’s a lesson too late for the learnin’
made of sand, made of sand
In the wink of an eye my soul is turnin’
in your hand, in your hand. . .
Are you goin’ away with no word of farewell,
Will there be not a trace left behind?
[Lyrics from Last Thing on My Mind by Tom Paxton]
When I was 5 years old, my mother made one of those unfortunate mistakes that parents sometimes make with the best of intentions.
My mother, who was young and impressionable, had gotten involved in a church with lots of rules. Until she joined this church, she’d been a fun parent who laughed a lot and seemed to understand my point of view. Now she was strict, like her church; less playful, not so much fun.
My memory of that tiny-huge moment goes like this: My mother is hanging clothes on the line, singing, “When the roll is called up Yonder, I’ll be there.” I ask, “What’s the roll is called up yonder?” She tells me that someday soon, in the twinkling of an eye, God will take Christians up to Heaven and leave everyone else behind. I say, “I’ll go, too!” She says without smiling, “I hope so.”
The world does change in the twinkling of an eye when your sense of safety is shattered by an unbearable threat. I needed my mother. I thought we were connected, but God could take her to Heaven without me. She could disappear when I blinked my eyes.
I couldn’t talk about the terror, but it was visible. I screamed when my mother was out of sight. I was afraid of things I hadn’t noticed before; terrified of making mistakes.
Unfortunately, there was no opportunity for healing dialogue. About a year later, my mother went to Heaven without me.
As I lie in my bed in the mornin’
without you, without you
Every song in my heart dies a bornin’
without you, without you. . .
As an adult, I coped with unresolved grief by seeing her as a bad mother. Later, working with a psychologist who was a spiritual director, I was able to understand and forgive, but my feelings for her didn’t return.
On Christmas morning, 2002, Light came in a dream:
I’m sitting on the floor in the hallway trying to read a letter I’ve just found. It’s to me, from my mother, and I’m having trouble understanding the words – odd, because the words are typed and very clear. I think I must need glasses. In a sea of fuzzy words, one word jumps out: “Alaska.” No, wait . . . it says “always.”
Suddenly, I’m intensely aware of a Presence beside me. I’m slightly afraid, but not much. I say, "Mommy?" There’s no mistaking who it is. This isn’t an intuition-only impression; she is a live, energetic Presence.
This dream (and several others that followed) must have planted trust seeds in my heart because I now have a comforting sense about my mother that tells me: she’s very sorry that she hurt me so badly. God didn’t take her away. She never left me. She has always been with me and always will be. I love her.