One of the last things mom said to me was, “Did you know you are the apple of my eye? But I think it sounds better when God says it.” And it’s true, I did know this. From the moment of my birth I knew it.
Mom and I went through our phases of being close and then distant, of being understanding and misunderstanding of each other. But I always knew she loved me. Always.
She told me I had a purpose. She told me I was beautiful. I was an insecure person, shy, and often the outcast, but not in my home. And not with God. I knew who I was and where I stood with mom, dad, and the Lord. And it was enough.
Mom loved the Lord, and followed Him with everything in her, but she had insecurities. Intense ones. Just like me. And thereby was the wall between us. She was tough, and I was sensitive. She was outwardly strong and I was inwardly strong. I never knew how wonderful of a compliment she was to me. Usually, I was frustrated that she didn’t understand.
But at the end, when she was seeing more of heaven and less of this earth, her walls of insecurities fell away. There was nothing between us. It was a short window, actually only three specific hours of one day in particular, where I sat by her on the bed and penned letters for her. She was confused and laughing at herself. We had switched rolls. I was the strong one, trying to be tough, while she laid all her emotions out there for me to see. Or maybe… she was still the stronger of the two of us. Being made perfect in the light of Christ …
She patted my hand and said, “Taters, I don’t think I more than a month left.” She had not studied her illness, but I had. One month, if we were lucky.
That afternoon, her mind had slipped so far that she could no longer dictate letters to me. She would keep asking me why I had a pen and paper. Our friends Kathleen Carnalli and Bre Golden arrived. Kathleen sat by mom’s bedside and played the ukulele, singing “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and other songs. Bre sang harmony. My sister laid next to my mom. I watched from the doorway, but finally left because mom kept asking me if I had finished my homework 🙂
But she kept smiling at me, waving to me, wanting to kiss me. And, even though these actions were not any different from any other time in my life, it was the attitude behind them. She didn’t question if I wanted to, or if I had other more important things to do. She wanted a hug and asked for it. She wanted to wave and did. She wanted to smile, and so she smiled.
It was a beauty unlike any other I had seen from her. Love and the outpour of actions no longer veiled by her insecurities. My mom was always beautiful, but it was amazing how lovely she became at the end. Those unveiled moments of childlikeness. Of wonder. Of simple humor. Of quiet revelations.
I felt like I was seeing her, or letting myself see her, for the first time. Because, no longer did my frustrations matter. Any “mother issue” I had had up till that point, vanished. It no longer mattered. All the memories that had stuck with me like miniature grudges disappeared. I realized how silly all of those moments had been. I should have pushed my way through, forced my way through that wall she had put up. Or maybe I had put it there.
I wish I had been sensitive enough to see what mom needed, and then tough enough to pull down what separated us brick by brick, before the end. When it fell away by itself.
I wish I could see her now. I miss her a lot, but sometimes, actually a lot of time, I miss her like she is now, or how I imagine she must be. Without any life scars, without any bad memories, without any insecurities. And here is my connection to heaven. The image of my mama doing whatever she wants to do there, in the light of Jesus.
When I sing, talk, or think about heaven, she is in that image. She takes my hand and says, “I want to show you Jesus.”
At her funeral, a highschool girl that I had once mentored found me. I think she came to comfort me, but I didn’t give her the chance. I took her hand and said, “Listen to me. There were things between my mom and I for a long time. Things that, at the end, did not matter. Things I regret. You go home and you get to know your mom. I know she’s hard on you, and tells you your hair is too curly and that she doesn’t like your clothes, but that’s just a wall. Figure out what that wall is and tear it down. Because at the end, you’ll wish you at least tried.”