Tag Archives: Mother

Divided Thanks

Thanksgiving…A time when we traditionally pause and reflect on life. Looking back over the previous year and giving thanks for our blessings…those we recognize and those known to only God.

Today, my heart is divided.

I went to bed at 2:00 am but not because of the usual pre-meal preparations. I was on a mission to finish a memorial video for my Grandmother’s funeral service scheduled for tomorrow. James and I arrived at my sisters’ house in Ohio at 9:15pm. We had barely finished carrying luggage in the house when we got the call that Grandma had just passed. We loaded back into the truck to meet up with the rest of our family at the hospital. Working on the video was draining. As I synced music to photos, I found myself flashing back to September. Back to when I was focused on the exact same exercise for my Mother’s memorial video. At 2:00 am, the final draft was finished…time for bed. Wiping tears from my eyes, I put my laptop to sleep and ascended the stairs to join my hubby.

I snuggled in and quickly drifted off to sleep. But not for long. My slumber interrupted by thoughts piercing my unconsciousness. Rising from bed, I looked out the open window…my gaze crossing the lawn…to Mom’s memorial statue. A silent conversation followed…known only to the two of us. Finally I uttered a verbal “Happy Thanksgiving” to Mom.Memorial Blur

My heart is divided.

I am deeply saddened that my step-father has lost both his Wife of 30 years and his Mother…exactly 11 weeks apart. I am saddened that two holidays will now eternally elicit mixed feelings. Mom passed at Labor Day – just before my brother’s birthday. Grandma passed just days ago – on my sister’s birthday and anniversary. These days have been added to the list of other special dates that we remember each year. My Mom and Step-Father’s anniversary also marked the day his father passed unexpectedly. My birthday marks the day my Father left this earth (though he was pronounced a few days later). On the calendar, they are just another day…marching along…leading way to the next. But in our lives, they cause us to pause, remember, and weep…sometimes uncontrollably.

My heart is divided.

When I allow myself to look past the grief, I am overpowered by an intense joy. I know Jesus welcomed Mom home in September. And I confidently visualize Mom and Grandpa, smiling ear-to-ear…standing arm-in-arm, behind Jesus…welcoming Grandma home. My Bible tells me to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-3 NIV) I don’t know the reason our loved ones were taken from us. But I do trust that God has a purpose. And when I allow myself to look past the grief, I know that they are happier in Heaven than here…in this temporary world. Our grief will be replaced by pure joy when our time comes to join them…to be welcomed home.

And somewhere in the middle…the dividing line…is a bit of guilt. How can I be happy? How can I enjoy the holidays when we have empty seats at the table? Am I discounting their loss if I move on with festivities so soon after their passing?

My heart is divided.

Does our laughter betray the pain inside? Or do we honor our loved ones by finding a way through the pain to remember the love and warmth we enjoyed in their presence? Can we mourn our loss and celebrate their lives?


It’s interesting how your perception of a specific circumstance can change when you experience a shift in perspective.

Perspective: a true understanding of the relative importance of things; an attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view; a frame of reference; the context for opinions, beliefs and experiences

I had dinner with a dear friend tonight. A friend who understands the pain of losing her Mother. It is comforting being able to talk with her and know she truly understands the level of grief associated with such loss. I came to realize that the emotions I’m feeling pale in comparison to the turmoil she experienced from the circumstances surrounding the passing of her Mother.

With this new perspective, I have found a small glimmer of closure. Yet, I know that it’s impossible to compare circumstances. And, you should never attempt to draw comparisons. Regardless of whether your circumstances appear more or less (insert whatever emotion or condition like grief, pain, loss) than someone else, the circumstances are yours…and the pain is yours. And when it impacts you…it will feel MORE than…even when it’s truly LESS than.

Celebration of Life

I roused myself out of bed in time to shower, dress and drive to the Sawtooth School for Visual Art. Today, in the midst of their usual offerings, was a class tailored and sponsored by Cancer Services. The hands-on clay workshop was titled “Survivorship Seminar: Celebration of Life Box.” The focus was to create a box to store memories from our cancer journey.

Street parking was plentiful and free at this hour. I walked the half block on the brick pavers that flanked the unique architecture of the building. The roofline mimics the teeth of a saw…hence the name “Sawtooth”.

I was greeted by the director of Cancer Services once inside. She could barely contain her enthusiasm as she pointed out our workspace and refreshments. The ladies that arrived before me were getting to know one another. There was no mistaking which side of the room was designated for our class. The tell-tale signs of chemotherapy were evident…a head covering (hat, scarf or wig) cloaked extremely short or newly grown hair, absent or missing eyebrows, and an aura of fatigue. Yet they were all smiles and excited about today’s adventure. As was I.

Each station was supplied with two pieces of clay that had been extruded. The center of our table held a basket containing the tools needed to shape our creations. Around the perimeter of our area were bins and tables displaying a variety of stamps, molds, and texture sheets. Our attention was directed to the head table where the instructor meticulously demonstrated the first steps in preparing the bottom, top, and sides of our box. She then dispatched us to choose the design elements to embellish the creation that will hold our precious memories. As we explored the cornucopia of design options, it became obvious when the perfect pattern was discovered. “Ohhh…how beautiful!”

Everyone, except me, settled back into their seats and started working with the clay. The myriad of choices summoned the analyst in me that is always lurking just beneath the surface. Did I want something elegant or playful? As I pondered the question, I thought about the contents that would find a home within the confines of the box. The memories held within would be more than just those from my cancer journey. My “Celebration of Life” box would also contain trinkets that summoned memories of my Mother. The cancer treatments prevented me from making the eight-hour trek home to visit family. Now that I am better and can travel…the trips home won’t be the same without Mom waiting at my destination.

My thoughts were interrupted only by the “BAM” of the extruder as it choked out sheets of clay for the adjoining class. My eyes paused on the nature stamp…decision made. Butterflies and dragonflies are symbols of change – often associated with cancer. Mom loved gardening and spent countless hours with her flowers. Yes, the nature theme was perfect…but presented complications. The stamp was narrow and wouldn’t cover the full height of the box. Leaving me with a quandary of how to fill the remaining area. The stamp was also too short to fit the length of the sides requiring the stamp to be applied multiple times. The details in the stamp would make lining up the images tricky…requiring more skill than I possessed. Determined to achieve the nature theme, I carried my stamp selections to the sample clay beckoning me to practice. Several design scenarios were attempted and aborted before finalizing the plan for my project.

Time to create! The clay felt cool and firm in my hands. I made several passes across the surface with the scraper to replace the canvas pattern with a smooth surface. Slivers of clay peeled off onto the tool. I noticed that they were slightly warm to the touch. An interesting contrast to the initial sensations of the clay. Next, I marked the boundaries for the pattern using the cardboard templates. Before pressing the images, I painstakingly laid out the placement for the stamps. A continuous border would be too difficult so I opted for breaks between each placement. A trio of dragonflies would be pressed within the breaks. Line up…level…place …press with roller…lift slightly to check depth…roll more…lift…good…repeat.Celebration of Life Box - Front

After stamping the sides, I decided on the pattern for the top. Four dragonflies would converge on the center where a cross would stand. The strength for my cancer journey came from my faith. When times were tough, I leaned upon my scripture verse. And when my condition improved, I praised God for his provision.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Phil 4:13

“Dang it!” I cut the top but forgot to extend a half-inch beyond the template. The instructor’s solution…the top could become the inside of the bottom of the box. Crisis averted…Whew! But then I realized this was divine intervention…not an error. If the cross was on the lid, it would be covered by the handle. Not good. Now the cross is inside the box…representing that Christ is inside of me and the foundation of everything in my life. PERFECT!

A brief intermission was announced so we could watch a demonstration for the handle and legs of the box. I had an epiphany…I remembered a wood grained pattern that would compliment the  nature theme! Back to the lid. The dragonfly image was stamped onto the surface pointing toward the center. I cut out four dragonflies and attached to the handle as if they were taking flight…representing that I am moving on with my life…a changed person. VIOLA…done! I’m SO happy with the finished product.Celebration of Life Box - Lid

I realized that I was exhausted from standing but was beaming from ear to ear. I was noticeably more relaxed than when I started. I can’t remember the last time I worked with clay but am now considering a new hobby.

We said our “good-byes” and left our creations to be fired and glazed. Since this is a busy time for Sawtooth, our finished boxes will not be ready until December. I’ll share pictures when I get it back…promise!

Sawtooth Building” by Susan Smith is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Zombie Connection

Mom loved games…cards, bingo, board games, video games…especially video games. When I was growing up, the free-standing “classic” video games were starting to pop up at the local convenience stores and arcades. Mom allowed us kids to walk the half mile down the road for an evening of electronic entertainment. THE HIGHLIGHT OF OUR WEEK! We each bought our snack of choice – making sure to get quarters for the machines. We took turns playing Galaga*, Pac-Man*, Centipede**, and Tempest**. My favorite was Centipede.

Our trips down the road were abandoned when the home gaming systems were introduced. I don’t remember which one we bought…but it was a great investment. Family time was spent challenging each other for high scores. The loser for the night was “awarded” additional chores by the winner. It was during these battles that Mom started playing games with us. She was mesmerized by the images on the screen. Her favorite game was Pac-Man. She gripped the joystick with such intensity that a dent was worn into her “joystick” finger. Many a controller met its demise in her clutches.

In the wee hours of one particular morning, we awakened to her persistent nudging. She herded us into the living room to validate her high score. I don’t remember the number on the screen but I do remember the look on her face…she exuded excitement…giddy…bubbling over…beaming…so proud of herself. We were in awe of her achievement.

Her love of video games remained with her over the years. When a game console wore out, she upgraded to the next version. I think the games were her escape from the burdens of being a widow with three children to raise. The games were also a way to connect with her family. I always found it amusing that a “game party” materialized when she was stuck on a level. During the “party”charade, she invited the grandchildren to see if they could beat the level that she just happened to be stuck on. It was during these sessions that Chris, young gamer extraordinaire, would get uninterrupted play time and unlimited attention from Grandma. After the level was passed, they went back to taking turns playing…each feeling that the other was taking WAY TOO MUCH time on their turn.

The sweepstakes craze brought her out to play games at the internet cafes springing up around town. Mom exchanged her usual home games for the games of chance and frequented multiple locations. She had a whole game plan devised for visiting each location based upon the available games and the free food and drink provided. She spent so much free time at the cafes that we started teasing her (tongue in cheek) about taking trips to the “crack” house to get her fix. (Please note that I am in no way comparing time spent playing video games to a drug addiction. This analogy is intended to portray the extent of her drive to visit the internet cafes.) Mom could spend the entire evening playing games at the cafe for twenty dollars. To her it was a social event. She enjoyed the food catered from local restaurants, drank the coffee and soft drinks, and talked to anyone who sat next to her. When we teased her, she quickly pointed out that she spent less for an evening of entertainment than we did. She laughed saying that we couldn’t even go out to the movies and get snacks for what she spends. Right as usual!

She turned her attention back to playing games on her computer. She didn’t play the high-tech 3D multi-player games. She preferred the more straight forward ones like slots, poker, Bejeweled****, Jewel Quest (all varieties)***, and her favorite was Plants vs. Zombies****. I remember chuckling to myself when she and my sister came to visit after my cancer surgery. The pain medicine caused me to fatigue easily. I wanted Mom to be entertained when I was sleeping so I downloaded Jewel Quest for her. She started from the beginning and by dawn the next morning she had completed all levels. She was on a roll…having a blast…and pulled an all-nighter. That’s MY Mom!

Her computer was on its last leg. I bought a new computer and brought it with me when I traveled to help care for her after surgery. The new computer was all set up with her favorite games. Ready and waiting for her. But Mom never got to play on her new computer. Sometimes I look at the computer and imagine a smile beaming across her face when she experienced the lightening speed of the new laptop. I imagine watching her play and listening to the game tips she always shared. I miss sharing in her passion for games.

I rarely keep games on my computer. Because I spend too much time playing games instead of doing the things I should be doing. But not now…Now I need to feel close to Mom. So I downloaded her favorite game – Plants vs. Zombies. And when I click on the grave stone, I escape into a fantasy world where Mom is standing over my shoulder…excitedly calling out instructions to help me beat the next wave of brain eaters. I imagine her pride and laughter when I make it to the next level. Check out the PopCap website for more information.

Screen capture of Plants vs. Zombies (PopCap Games)
Screen capture of Plants vs. Zombies (PopCap Games)

So…can I get anyone to admit they enjoy playing this game? Or perhaps you can share your favorite way to escape the trials of life. (Strictly PG rated please.)

*Galaga and Pac-Man, distributed by Midway (in North America)
**Centipede and Tempest produced by Atari
***Jewel Quest produced by Iwin
****Bejeweled and Plants vs. Zombies published by PopCap Games

What You Oughta Do Is

Several thoughts for today’s post had been churning around in my head all day. I couldn’t settle in on what to write about. Each topic will eventually bubble to the top and make it to the page…but today…none of the ideas were firing off the neurons in my head…none were awakening the impulses that normally produce a tsunami of words pouring out through my hands. My fingers usually racing over the keyboard in a vain attempt to keep up with the thoughts transported by the synapses. I frequently struggle to get the images in print before the electrical impulses discharge somewhere along the way. But NOT today…today I just wasn’t “feeling it.”

Over dinner, I shared a few of the top contenders with my Hubby. When I speak my thoughts out loud to him, a crystal clear clarity forms out of the nebulous void. As soon as this topic emerged, he did not hesitate to make the decision for me. He exclaimed (as if a matter of fact)… “That’s it! You ought to write about…What you oughta do is!”

So, this blog will be the first of many random “Mom-isms”.

When I originally considered this topic, I could feel a spark but just couldn’t figure out how to explain the complexity of the relationship that made this “Mom-ism” such a sensitive issue. Most likely it is one of those things inherent in the Mother-Daughter relationship. At first we emulate our Mother, attempting to learn everything she has to give. But as we grow…older and questionably wiser…we begin to develop opposing views to most (if not all) subject matter that we once took as fact. From how you wear your hair…to how you dress…to who you date…to your beliefs…to who you marry…and THE LIST GOES ON.

It was as if we were on opposite sides of a chasm…shouting across the distance between us…the intensity of our words building like waves crashing on the shore…churning out of control…trying to convince each other that our side was better…that our perspective was the right one.

Discussions, debates, and heated arguments all emerge from these differences of opinion. Some relationships have only minor “fender-benders” but others have full-out “head on” collisions…as was true with me and Mom. At first the phrase was subtle. Over time it grew to become the single string of words that immediately raised the hair on the back of my neck and caused my very core to brace for an argument. Those five little words packed such a punch…and have brought me such pain. “What you oughta do is…”

As I grew older and more mature, I slowly began to realize that I wasn’t as smart…or as wise…or as (insert any number of adjectives)…as I once thought. When I began to see more clearly, I had to admit to myself that my Mother was right WAY MORE that I gave her credit. To borrow a phrase from my Husband – The older I got, the smarter my Mom got!

Even though my perspective changed, I still found it difficult to hear those five words strung together in that specific order. They just set me off when anyone (especially Mom) uttered them. Today, I yearn for the sound of her voice…I long to hear Mom say “What you oughta do is…” And this time, I will lovingly listen and respect the wisdom that follows those five little words…the wisdom she felt important enough to share.

Do you have any “Mom-ism” that you care to divulge?

My Mountain Mother

In the hills of West Virginia, she began her life
the daughter of a coal miner and loving housewife.
Born at home in Plymouth Bottom, the coal mine town
where the company required they settle down.

Blind to the poverty of the coal dust streets
her joy was shared with each person she would meet.
She eloped at 15 for marrying young was the custom
and within two years, a new life she welcomed.

Mom and Me
Mom and Me

Blessed twice more in rapid succession…
her family complete, a smile her permanent expression.
The love story continued with a promising future
until tragedy struck and left her a single mother.

She moved to Ohio looking for work
for she couldn’t support her family as a restaurant cook.
Nights in a factory were difficult and tough…
we didn’t have much extra but always enough.

Her children grew and built lives of their own
leaving her proud of their independence but feeling sad and alone.
Out with a friend, one night she chanced to meet
a smooth talker that swept her off her feet.

Thirty years ago she married her second love
and while taking a new name, she gained a daughter and a son.
The new couple sped through the years enjoying each day
as they laughed and loved in their own special way.

Graduations and weddings and grandchildren, now eleven
drove her empty nest to yearn for attention.
Looking through the window, she found her calling
to rescue stray kittens, now her life had new meaning.

As the years passed, her heart began to weaken
perhaps drained from the love she shared without hesitation.
We felt her embrace and affection in everyday actions
for saying the words, didn’t often happen.

She learned as a child to keep her feelings contained
and limit expressions of emotion, the reason unexplained.
It was sometimes difficult to see through her tough exterior
but we knew she loved us deeply, and that’s what matters.

I held Mom’s hand as her breathing became shallow
and reminisced of a vibrant woman, who was now only a shadow.
I wished to go back in time for a long sweet embrace
to tell her “I Love You!” and “You can never be replaced.”

We said good-bye as Jesus welcomed her home
and rejoiced in knowing we would never be alone.
For we see her smile that continues to glow
in every sunset that graces the heavens, both above and below.

Mom Smiles from Heaven