For years, I blamed my mother for my lack of happiness as a child and in some ways even as an adult. I hung onto those feelings so tight that I believed they were just another part of me- something I couldn’t get rid of no matter how I tried.
I mean why else would I stay away so long?
…Yet, as I drove to a place I once called home, I unpacked my heart.
I used my fight or flight instincts all wrong for years. It doesn’t take much courage to run away. Instead of facing the hard moments head-on, with few exceptions, I took the rode too often taken…
What might have been green once was now only laden with pebbles of broken promises, unfulfilled desires, missed opportunities, and those unfamiliar pieces-fragments of a beat-less heart.
Despite the barrenness of this path, my actions proved I was comfortable with uncomfortable. It was familiar.
This road led to my new norm. Though breathing daily, I became one of the dearly departed…
I expected a miracle with my mother’s recovery. I assumed my faith was enough to reverse the illnesses that mercilessly waged war on her mind and body with each passing day. But of what I saw was left of her in April brewed something I wish I could reject now. I wish I hadn’t stuffed it. I wish I hadn’t retreated. I wish I had not done what I thought God should have done for me.
…7 months I remained away…7 months I thought I had peacefully accepted the inevitable, but there had been anything but peace of mind available to me…
I hid that part of me from those I should have held the closest…a brother…I promised to keep in touch…somehow all else superseded that task…a son and daughter… they longed for attention, but a more fitting luxury was to be there, yet not be …potential for new love…snuffed by insecurities bred and nurtured by isolation…promotion just beyond reach…too exhausted to fully comply…I chose to remain detached…
…from my mother, from my family, from my fears, from commitment, from true friendships, from real love, from my calling, from myself, and even from God…
FEAR OF CHANGE was my fuel!
Delays with travel threatened to keep me in my bedroom even on Thanksgiving Day, but that’s when He came to see about me.
My Heavenly Father reminded me I’d been bent for too long…crippled for 18 years… bent by toxic words, vindictive glares, and rages because I was just being me…so at 18, I fled…I intended to never look back…
But how could I look forward when the lure of my past still taunted me day and night? I was held captive by an unforgiveness that seethed in my heart…
Still, my Redeemer comforted me with His word:
Luke 7:47 New Living Translation
47 “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”
In order for me to finally move forward, it was time to stand still…no more vanishing acts.
…and with every passing mile, I unpacked my mind.
She clung to life awaiting my return…
When I arrived at Grace, I expected the icy stare from the nurse who saw to my mother’s daily needs. So as my daughter whittled our names on the register, I promised myself I would not cry.
The prognosis was bleak.
“Let me see if I can speak to you, what’s your name? Who are you?” she sneered flipping through a worn manila folder 2 inches thick.
Her gasp was expected too. Still, I managed the words, “I’m her daughter.”
In the fours years, my mother had been housed there, she and I’d never met.
Resting the closed folder on her chest with arms folded as if she had a right to protect the details, she sighed, “It’s not good. Every other day, we think she’s getting ready to pass, but she hangs in there.”
A tear escaped.
I knew why she fought. The nurse’s olive eyes brightened for a moment as she continued with the details of the medicinal regimen she’d administered to her. I inhaled her words methodically picking apart those I understood in silence.
Morphine every 8 hours
High Blood Pressure Meds
With that, my mind immediately regurgitated memories when she preferred the taste of my daughter’s kid’s meal as she quickly confiscated a handful of fries the moment we entered her room that first time we were there.
She’d been able to eat on her own then.
“Do you want to see her?”
I’m sure her question hadn’t been the reason for my jolt back to the blank corridor where we stood. Rather, her attempt to shove the few tissues she grabbed from her cart into my trembling hands sparked recognition that I was doing the very thing I promised myself I wouldn’t mere minutes earlier.
Acknowledging her question, I nodded and offered a muddled response of, “I just couldn’t see her like this.” Her grimace softened as if for at least a minute she understood.
I rested in this glimmer of hope that maybe I wouldn’t be judged for my absence and followed her to the place I’d successfully avoided for so long.
…I unpacked my will
She led me to the room with the number 707 on the door. The one I’d ironically just passed without taking notice of her name on the placard above the digits that symbolize completion. I walked in at a little after 5 pm, but the room was serene and dark. She was sleeping soundly. Still tiny in comparison to the way I would have preferred to remember her.
Those Cherokee roots were more evident than ever now. A single band corralled her crimped tresses in a side bun. Coal black strands concealed her true age though few iridescent stragglers remained…She still appeared only 10 years older than I. As I stood there, I became weak.
So My Father picked me up and carried me the distance I knew I needed to travel…He knew that the shards of brokenness beneath my feet on that road I’d been wandering on before were too painful to endure alone. Still, He understood my need to revisit that barren place, if only for a final time…to say goodbye…as only a Father could…He consoled me and allowed me to heal as he lowered me at her bedside.
For the first time in a long time, I opened up my heart to my mother.
Running from every other issue in my life had been my norm for nearly 2 decades. I guess the enemy thought by witnessing my mother’s condition for perhaps the last time I’d continue to feel robbed of my childhood or that I’d turn my anger back on God for her suffering.
Instead, I felt relief. Soon she would no longer suffer….she’d suffered much longer than I had. I realized that the pain she inflicted on me was only the residue left from her own similar afflictions she endured as a child.
Though she never was able to mouth the confirmation of her pain to me directly, her eyes said it all.
Before I visited her, God prepared me. I came across photos I had never seen…as I flipped through endless albums a progression of life, love, and family were revealed. With it, the snapshots also exposed an evolution of pain.
She was sexually abused as a child. Now I realize why in many ways her tyrannical behavior towards me was in some ways protective. She distanced herself from me emotionally and perhaps this is what ingrained in me a fear of intimacy that would take years for me to own. I could see why she possibly felt responsible for the violations she endured at the hands of the one she should have been able to trust.
Both sequences were simultaneously authentic and counterfeit foreign and familiar to me…authentic and counterfeit…manufactured too shared the same fake smile once my world was interrupted by intolerable cruelty. It seemed, my last genuine smile was when I was 7 years old. Hmph…there’s that number again…One such picture that I uncovered of my mother shared that same smile.
She was captured in mid curtsy smiling ear to ear looking straight at the camera in her white laced Sunday’s best! I wondered at that moment who had been the photographer. Who brought her so much joy then? Who was responsible for taking it? The next shots canvassed were entirely different. They captured brokenness. Again I understood the pasted facade for those required at school while others were taken at home never quite held the same enchantment…pictures where she clung to her mother’s leg as if that were her only hope of surviving the storm that raged within her.
That weekend bits and pieces of my mother’s existence were revealed as I fought through the urge to selfishly cling to the cancer that linked us. I realized with God’s grace that I not only had permission to let the pain of my past go but that I had the obligation to let my mother go as well. So as I gathered the strength to sing in her ear as she did to me before what ailed her surfaced. The tune was so familiar…I realized why she constantly hummed it…”We only just begun to live…white lace and promises…” I understood that white lace and promises were what we shared once and as I hesitated to close the blinds and turn out the lights to what might have been, I did so beamingly because I knew that we still would share that time again together someday.
©2014-2020 Nadia Davis. All Rights Reserved.
Hey Ladies and Gents,
I’m curious. Are you still holding onto past hurts and regrets? How’s that working out for you? Tell me your story below!