Mother’s Day

    My mother passed from this life into eternity 14 years ago—on 1/23/00 to be exact. I knew the precise moment when she passed. I sensed a fluttering of wings around my head and in five minutes the hospital called.  She had made it into the new millennium, tho I’m not sure she was aware of that fact. She spent the last four and a half years of her life in a nursing home slowly wasting away. She had a stroke in the summer of ’95 and her left side was paralyzed. However, her mind was still intact.

    As nursing homes go it was a pretty good one.  It was only a mile from my house and so I visited her daily. When I missed a day, I would usually go twice the following day. I brought her books from the library and pancakes from McDonalds on Saturday. The pancakes were a welcome treat–a respite from the blenderized slop they feed stroke victims. My mother didn’t watch TV and she conversed very little but she devoured three or four books every week. She had eclectic tastes in books–mysteries, historical romances, biographies, religion–and of course the Bible.

    Those who know me reasonably well know that sadness is sort of my default setting. But Mother’s Day is usually a sadder day than most. A question for discussion in my home church group this morning was what word first comes to mind when you think of your mother. That threw me for a loop. I answered, “love” but in truth my first thought was, “mentally ill.” It was an unsettling question and not one that I wanted to answer truthfully or talk about at that point.

    My mother was quite bipolar and over the course of her life had a dozen or more psychotic episodes and hospitalizations. However, between episodes she was a normal and loving individual. When I was 19, I was an agnostic prone to scoff at her beliefs.  On one occasion she said, “God is love.” I did not know that she was quoting from First John 4, but some part deep within me knew that I had heard truth.  I didn’t give her a hard time as I was wont to do and over the 23 years of my unbelief I held that thought. I also knew that she prayed for me daily and no one else did.

    I am an only child, and the only child of an impaired parent usually tries to rescue them. We sense that our own survival somehow depends on it. It’s an impossible task of course–but nevertheless we persist, and when we don’t succeed what’s left is guilt and a sense of failure and our powerlessness. And of course we live out lives being rescuers and co-dependents–trying to succeed at the impossible task we failed at as children.

    When my mother died I didn’t own a cell phone or a computer. The internet and its possibilities was a thing  beyond my comprehension. I did not have a passport and hadn’t been on an airplane in 30 years.  In the autumn of 1999, I wrote the first draft of my first book The Unwelcome Blessing on a typewriter. I was numb for several months and unable to write but I finished it in the Summer of 2000, and when the few publishers I submitted it to didn’t welcome it with open arms I threw the manuscript in a stack on a shelf where it remained for five years.

This past June I returned to New Mexico where we lived for almost a decade. I hadn’t been back in 42 years, and it was an emotional trip back in time. The years she spent in New Mexico were one of the happier times in her troubled life. She worked for the government as a clerk-typist at White Sands Missile Range. Four times in three days I drove by the little cement block house she owned. The house and the neighborhood had deteriorated terribly. I thought about asking the current residents if I could peek inside but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. She was rightfully proud of our modest little home, and it was sad to see how it had been kept. But I did attend sunday services at the Lutheran church where she taught sunday school. Afterwards, I spoke with the pastor. She mentioned that the one or two old-timers who might remember my mother were not present that day.

Over the past 14 years my life has evolved immeasurably and in ways I could never have imagined—four trips to Europe, mission trips to Latin America and ten trips to California, plus three more books published. It has been a time of incredible blessings. And yet I feel very alone and, at times, like I’m still living out my mother’s incomplete life.

    e e cummings wrote: “i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart) i am never without it (anywhere i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing. . .”


About diospsytrek

I am a licensed mental health counselor in Florida. I am also the author of four books. The books have to do with coping with depression and other mood disorders, and the nexus of psychological problems and spiritual warfare.
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4 Responses to Mother’s Day

  1. Barbara DeVanna says:

    Carl – a wonderful tribute to your Mom – the one on the planet who loves us unconditionally…if I had to guess, I would guess that your Mom was incredibly proud of the man, of the person you became – because of her, in spite of her…she was a believer and His promise to her unfolded when you came back to Him from your darkness

  2. jeanine says:

    Loved this story Carl!

  3. Mary Keller says:

    Yes, it was quite moving and worded with such affection that it brought tears to my eyed. My father, also, lost his left side to a stroke and in the end all he could move were his eyes. My mother’s passing was in God’s grace. She was so very sick and all her organs were failing. On a Saturday morning, she asked me “when am I going to get better?” I told her that she wasn’t and with that when she saw her mama and grandma that she had to go with them. She rose up and those brown eyes crackled. “If that’s how you’re going to talk, I’m not going anywhere.” I started to cry and through my sobs I told her how much I loved her and couldn’t imagine my life without her. That night she rested easily, Sunday seemed to be a better day and we enjoyed it together (at this time I had living with me). On Monday am, her feet were starting to turn the deep purple of death invading your body. She slept comfortably and when she began her death rattle, I called for Larry to come. When he got there, she motioned for us to help her sit up; and she called to her mama to come get her. She held her arms out to meet them and she was gone. If there was ever one thing that I had to choose to say permanently solidified my faith was that day at noon, she was in a different world and I knew that our Savoir was seeing her safely home.

  4. diospsytrek says:

    Mary, that’s a great testimony.

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