I wrote this after my mother passed away, and my son read it at her memorial service. I am posting this as my first blog on the new website.
Yesterday, shortly before six in the evening, I sat in a chair in room 206 at the nursing home and watched as Mom took her final breath. Then she slipped quietly away. Her struggles, pains and fears vanished in an instant. Mom was gone. She was free.
Mom had always been there. As a child, she comforted me when I fell off a contraption in the backyard and ran screaming into the house with blood pouring from my head. Apparently, that happened to me quite often. Many times as a child, and as an adult, I would listen to the story of how I cut my wrist after falling on the sidewalk while running with a glass of water out at Grandma’s house. They rushed me to the doctor and he stitched me up. The jagged diagonal scar is still there on my left wrist. I can see why they were so concerned. She was there in the utility room when Beverly decided to insert her arm into the electric wringer, burning her wrist and necessitating another trip to the doctor. Not sure why she did that, and I’m sure Barb and I did nothing to convince her that might be a good idea. She was there when I found a large snake in the backyard shed and got scared. She read to me as a child and told me stories about growing up on a farm. I wish I could remember more of them, but as my cousin Carl said, “We weren’t all that interested back then in what our elders had to say. We needed to go outside and throw rocks at each other.” Or sometimes it was Mason jars filled with dirt. I think that might have been me doing the throwing and Paul’s forehead on the receiving end. I don’t remember how many stitches that involved. She took me to church every Sunday, and every other time the church held a service. I remember sitting through two-week-long revival services. Mildred Bryant would preach while her husband Earl fell asleep in his chair behind her. Why did he get to take a nap when we had to listen? She saved the certificates I received for memorizing Bible verses at VBS at the Kinmundy Methodist Church. She saved report cards, elementary school photos – do my ears still look that funny – and even saved the Cardinals baseball programs I collected on trips to Busch Stadium with my father. Yeah! I have Stan Musial’s autograph. She saved everything. The earliest memory I have is walking up the stairs in the terrifying, unpainted black house in Kinmundy to retrieve an old-fashioned Bissell Sweeper. I don’t remember walking back down the stairs, but we did. Mom was always there. In the summers she played catch with me just like she did so many years previously with her youngest brother Bill. She must have done all right because Uncle Bill played baseball professionally.
On Friday, I will sit in a pew at our church and listen to Pastor Tyler talk about Mom. I’m sure he will do a great job because, unfortunately, he has had more experience doing funerals than any other twenty-seven-year-old. He also knows how to listen for just the right words to say. At some point, my tears will flow because that’s just how I’m wired. I still can’t watch E.T. or Marley and Me. At other times, I will smile because I will be thinking about the words Ben said in church last Sunday morning. Ben listened patiently to other people share about what God had done in their life the past week. Ben raised his hand and Pastor Tyler chuckled, as he often does, walked over to Ben, held the microphone and listened as Ben said a few words. His childlike trust in God evident. I’m sure I will be remembering more stories about my childhood in the days, weeks, months, maybe even years to come, and I will remember how Mom was always there. She is still there. It’s just harder to see her now. I have to look inward… to my heart. Perhaps one day, if God allows, I will sit down with grownup Ben and tell him the story of how he once said to the entire church, “Yesterday, I sat on a bee, and it didn’t sting me.”