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. 

—Sally Gillette