Thursday, April 7, 2016


It never ceases to surprise me how the mundane can transform to memorable the moment we are quiet.  It's my day off, I've just left a doctors appointment and I'm treating myself to my favorite Thai place.  I am alone so I sneak in some people watching time. 

There is a young family that just walked in with their squirmy and hungry toddler. I watched as the mom walked over to pick up the restaurant standard wooden high chair in that awkward tripod shape and was instantly transported. 

It is 1999. I'm at Cici's pizza. There are 2 toddlers and I pick up the same wooden tripods, like a purse for each arm. I push chubby legs into slots they don't want to go in. I clear wrapped silverware, glasses, Parmesan cheese shakers and any other possible projectable objects out of toddler arm reach. They reach anyway. And then come the frustrated protests. Not my first rodeo, I grab for the sippy cups. God love sippy cups! They serve the dual purpose of occupying hands and stifling loud toddler cries.

This buys me time to find and secure bibs, while they attempt to pull them off with their free hand.  When Sean is done with his desperate gulping, he really is done. The cup goes directly from his mouth to hurtling sideways toward a nearby table.

It is then I can confirm we are being watched. Of course, we are. There are 2 of them and 1 of me and people are understandably curious how this will play out. They are in 1 of the umpteen sets of matching short overalls my mother has purchased. And I'm not gonna pretend here. They are stinkin' cute.

I reach for the cup on the floor but the elderly man at the neighboring table has beat me to it. His wrinkled face in a full smile as he hands me the cup, chuckling and says, "Quite an arm he has there." I apologize and he and his wife won't have it. "No," they tell me. They have 4 grandchildren and they understand.

But now I have one more thing to watch like a hawk. Once is understandable. More than once and I'm certain it's a pronouncement on my parenting skills. I make a big show of cleaning the sippy cup, something I wouldn't bother with at home.

I have come here because it is a buffet. There are multiple choices in case the first 3 don't meet with finicky toddler standards. It's cheap. Most importantly, it is immediate. I won't have to dig through a diaper bag offering everything from graham crackers to gummy bears while we sweat out the eternal wait for food. I have picked a table that is strategically close to the buffet, so this mama lion can watch her cubs while hunting and gathering breadsticks and other toddler friendly cuisine.

Between spooning in bites of pudding to alternating mouths, I steal a bite for myself. They get done before me but that's just the way it goes. When they are done, they are done. I look at the floor under the table, littered with Weathersby crumbs. I try to pick up the big pieces and tell myself we didn't destroy the place.

As I leave, I know my next challenge will be to keep 2 little boys awake for the 10 minute drive home. If they fall asleep, afternoon nap is ruined. They won't go back down. I want to sleep way more than I wanted to finish my pizza.

A month and a week and those toddlers will graduate and go meet the world. I'm so nervous they aren't ready and I'm certain that I am not. I'm that mother that feels on display all over again. Have I done a good job? Was it enough? What did I forget?

I have no diaper bag full of tricks to heal a broken heart. To keep my military-bound son out of harm's way. To help my enormously talented musical son meet the right people and reach his dreams. I've got some praying to do.

Back in 2016, I watch this anxious mom losing her struggle to keep him happy and reasonably quiet. The meal is over. Time to go. I wish I could tell her no one is judging her. That she is enough. And that my prayer is, she can make it home before he falls asleep.

Monday, December 1, 2014

'Tis A Gift To Be Simple

I’m sitting on my cozy bedroom loveseat reading in soft light, when my husband  walks in, flips on the harsh overhead light and says, “You gotta help me figure out what to wear.” As my eyes adjust, so does my mind and I recall that the big boss, the big, BIG boss will be in town tomorrow.  He begins throwing an array of shirts and ties across our bed and demands a verdict with his eyes. If I approach this with confidence, I might get off easy. “That blue one with the blue checked tie," I offer assuredly. His face immediately sours, “No! I always wear that.” (Not getting off easy.)

“I thought you’d never met him?”
“What? No, I haven’t met him. But I always wear that combination to important things.”  (If it ain’t broke…) And so, as I realize this will only be painful for the both of us, I decide to punt. “Luuuuke!!! Seeean!! Come here!!”

You see, my husband and I are kind of like the Gift of the Magi story on steroids. He is an amazing husband. He’s thoughtful, courteous, dare I say tidy, romantic, nostalgic and a whole host of other things I don’t have time to talk about. When we were newly married he found the most awesome bed and breakfast all by his little self, complete with antique everything. Of course, I was relieved that there was a tv in the room because those were the days of Captain Comeback Jim Harbaugh and the Colts making the playoffs for the first time. He finds great restaurants, surprises and never forgets the important things.

I on the other hand, love football, football jerseys, MMA, boxing movies and telling gross stories about hideous wounds I encounter. Suffice to say, I would trust him to dress me in a heartbeat. He is, how shall we say it, “particular.”

Luke and Sean can agree on a shirt. But they immediately disagree on the tie. I don’t like either one so I’m no help whatsoever. But guess who they all want to make this decision? I thought I got disqualified in the opening heat? How quickly these things go all kinds of Jerry Springer!

Luke: “That tie is seems shorter and emphasizes your stomach more.”
Sean: “You don’t know what you’re talking about. Its yellow. Everyone knows that redheads look terrible in yellow.”

Paul dismisses them and then asks me again. As if the Holy Spirit has bestowed new gifts in the last 3 minutes. He says, “You know, the purpose of a tie is to stand out, right?” (If this were a John Grisham movie, someone would stand up right now and yell, “Objection!! Leading the witness.”  “Overruled. Ms. Weathersby, you may answer the question.) “Well…’ I started slowly, ‘it seems like the.. y, y, yellow one would stand out more against the blue, than the blue.

And then confetti fell from the ceiling fan, bells and lights began going off and… ok. So that is slightly stretching it. But I did participate in helping my husband pick out clothes. Next up, quadratic equations. Come at me, bro.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Perils of Liberty Run Amuck

Procrastination takes on new meaning as does the term “stay of execution” in the context of my choice to put off writing my thoughts on Brittany Maynard and her decision to end her life today. She has since decided that November 1st is not the right time and so, it becomes the right time for me.

My best guess is that this will not be well received and that is the least of my worries. Framing my position is where it gets sticky. Most, if not all of you know I’m a follower of Jesus, so of course that takes precedence. But there’s another concern that must be addressed. Its bigger than this moment, and yet this moment epitomizes what troubles me right now as a citizen of these United States. 

We are completely, fall down, shit-faced drunk with freedom. There, I said it. (Sorry, mom.) Freedom, that word will stop a politician dead in his or her tracks. NO one, in any walk of life wants to be in any way associated with the mere suggestion that they want to limit anyone’s freedom. It gets comical when watching the news. Would be public servants would rather appear ridiculous as they choose semantical verbage and turn themselves into pretzels in order to avoid speaking their truth and drawing a line in the sand. 

We’ve seen it with gay marriage, gun control, border issues, quarantines and of course, right to life issues. Its like a strange version of Password or Taboo where a message is supposed to be received, but certain words cannot be invoked. I suppose that’s why I was so amused the other day at Chris Christie’s response to a heckler. Oh, I knew it would go over like a led balloon, such a foreign concept to us these days. We hide behind terms like “civil discourse” and cry foul. Freedom of speech, first amendment, blah, blah, blah. Please explain to me what is civil about a man seeking attention and interrupting a ceremony commemorating superstorm Sandy and its subsequent recovery. No one’s rights were violated. Someone was told to sit down and shut up, something his mother apparently forgot to do long ago.

No, I don’t support physician-assisted suicide or any other kind for that matter.  My reasons are shaped by so many influences. Naturally, God and His will for my life is at the top. Its more than that though. There is an interconnectedness to life that makes less sense to me when we choose to live it disjointedly. NO, I’m not a communist. Or a socialist. Or a facist. Or a member of a cult. I am an individual. I’m an individual that is part of the body of Christ. I’m part of the human race.  I’m an individual that is a citizen of these United States. I’m part of a community in South Alabama. (Still getting used to that one.)

Its my interconnectedness, my belonging that brought me to this conclusion. I am thinking of my friend who has had 7 electro-convulsive shock therapy sessions to curb the debilitating depression she suffers from. Another friend who is estranged from her adult daughters due to a painful divorce and does not get to be in her grandchildren’s lives. I am thinking of my friend who just buried her baby boy who died tragically in a drowning accident last month. I had lunch last Sunday with a beautiful teenage girl who was diagnosed with a brain tumor roughly three years ago with a grim prognosis, not dissimilar to Brittany Maynard’s.

I am thinking of family friends whose patriarch is walking through the nightmare of Lewy Body dementia. I am thinking of Kent Brantly receiving the death sentence of an Ebola diagnosis, late this summer. I am thinking of my close friend who found herself pregnant with a bi-racial child, single and unsupported by her family some 21 years ago.  I am thinking as a nurse, who encourages daily the  ALS patient to fight, even as the disease ascends through her body and encroaches on her very ability to breathe. Even as I rush her in a wheelchair out of the therapy room to suction her when she cannot breathe. I am thinking of my father, as he enters the final stages of Parkinson’s Disease. How so long ago, he wanted to give up. How getting out of bed is a mountainous task most days. How the disease has not spared his faculties and as a result, dementia has caused him to say some very hurtful things to those he loves the most. 

My friend who has endured the shock therapy had a baby girl not long ago after having five boys! (I’m so jealous.) My friend who is estranged from her daughters has a new grandbaby through her husband whom she adores and spoils rotten. My friend who lost her sweet baby boy last month posted pictures of her daughter in her Halloween costume last night. The girl in that costume has an amazing mother who will love her in a way most of us cannot truly appreciate. The girl I had lunch with had to learn to walk, talk and do everything all over again. She has since become a spokesperson for the Childrens Miracle Network and is such a joy to be around.  

My family friends whose patriarch is fighting LBD now cherish every moment, every good day that they have with him, even as those become fewer and farther between. They show gratitude to overworked, underpaid nursing staff that care for him and that love exponentiates. And who can forget the moment the world came together and prayed for Kent Brantly. And just as Kent asked, God was glorified in his life and  miraculous healing occurred. And as a result, science advanced. Serums were developed and released. Kent’s antibodies went on to assist in saving other lives. 

My best friend who found herself pregnant with a bi-racial child some 21 years ago, rose to the occasion, kept her baby, raised an amazing, beautiful daughter always being the room mom and girl scout leader and has become a personal hero, example and profile in courage for me. My ALS patient inspires me daily to be a better nurse and person. 

My dad will tell you he has had a great life. And a good portion of the highlight reel would include the years since he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. He watched me become a nurse and then we took a trip of a lifetime to California, covering everything from the redwoods to San Francisco, Monterey and the majestic Yosemite. His grandchildren have been accepted to grammy camp, been ranked first in their class, won state fair baking contests, lego contests, been to West Point math and science seminars, swim meets, wrestling matches, band contests, dances, first loves and he has heard more hilarious Nolin stories than he can count. And I’m praying there will be more. That he will see graduations, weddings, Sean go to the Air Force Academy and work for NASA and all of their dreams materialize. But even if that doesn’t happen, God is glorified in his choice to go on. 

The buzz phrase that is pitched to us is death with dignity. I do not agree. Brittany Maynard tells us she doesn’t want to put her family through what happens at the end. That she wants them to remember her with youth, vibrance, and happiness. This is where the choice IS. That is not death with dignity. That is death with vanity. Left to my own thinking, apart from the context of community, I might reach the same conclusion. But life is lived and purpose is found in community. She has said the time is not right for her, there are still too many good days. My question is, how can you possibly know when life has given you all it has to offer, all you are purposed to do?

People often tell me I must be a special person to work in this area of nursing and what a blessing I must be. The truth is, I am the blessed one. Families at their most vulnerable moments let me in their lives. They allow me to  be present during a sacred passage from this life to the next. When goodbyes and forgiveness burst out in sobs. When the meaning of real love is manifested - I want what’s best for you more than I want what you give to me. 

If we interfere and try to choose that holy moment, (and it is holy to be sure,  and CAN BE so incredibly beautiful and fear free), we miss out on what only God can reveal to us. But, I’ve slipped up here, gotten far too preachy, crossed the line and spoke MY truth. Even if, as an American you don’t share my belief in life beyond this body, you must know that sometimes the best surprises of a movie come during the rolling of the credits. And lest we forget, our inalienable rights were listed in the following order: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Praying for you, Brittany.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

My First Day Here

"It's my first day here." She says this to me, eyes twinkling, wringing her hands.
"Is that right? Well, welcome! We are are so glad to have you."

Her mouth spreads into a wide grin. She says, "Thank you," nods her head and moves on.
This exchange with one of my favorite residents (ssshhh) never fails to amuse me and usually happens a couple of times a week. She of course, has been there for years.
I tell Paul she reminds me of when we were visiting churches a few years back. We would receive the first time visitors pack of bread or cookies. Sometimes they were just yummy enough that we would joke about how we could pull off being first time visitors again just to get the free loot.

This has to be one of life's greatest mysteries for me. One of my favorite movie scenes is of 
Mr. Diggery telling Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy that he expects they will probably return to Narnia again - but not through the wardrobe. No, he himself had already tried that. This scene always produces a mixture of excitement and anxiety in me. How the heck are they going to get there? It would devastate me to find such an amazing place and not know how to get back.

The truth is we rarely, if ever, return to wonderment in the same way. There is a uniqueness in experiencing something for the first time that is undeniably intoxicating and unrepeatable. It's why so many people look back on their first love through rose colored glasses. Its unlikely that things were really all that perfect or you'd probably still be together. No, a more realistic perspective is that it was all wonderfully new to you. Feeling this level of intense regard for someone else and having it reciprocated. And you miss the thrill of discovery.

Every day around 2:30, another resident comes to the desk. Her face is wrought with worry. She wants us to call her husband immediately. He got there early that morning, just left about 30 minutes ago and will be back before supper to eat with her and put her to bed. Exactly what he does 7 days a week without fail. He is not well, exhausted with the kind of fatigue that can only be understood by a caregiver and we are all worried about him. The next 2 hours become an exercise in patience. Her anxiety heightens, she accuses him of not caring about her. She cries and sometimes screams terrible things.  We try everything to redirect, explain, comfort, alleviate fears, and walk with her through this perceived crisis. She cannot trust, cannot wait. We hold our ground. When he returns, he is always so gentle, responding to her anger with love and kindness. 

I know all too well that this is a result of the disease process. This is not a judgement of her character. The truth is, I love her too. But its different. She does not trust the relationship.  She does not let me meet her needs as I see them. It saddens me as a nurse that she won't let me care for her. I hate to see her anguish, so unnecessary. What troubles me most is how much I'm like her. 

We recently learned that the renter of  our house for two years has decided to move on. He has been a great tenant. The circumstances that led him to rent our house in the first place are both comical and completely providential. Not my plan. It happened in the very last days before we moved, with no idea how we would pay rent and mortgage since I had not yet secured a job. To this day, I have no idea what we were thinking. God handled the matter seamlessly and we never lost a cent. 

Fast forward two years. We both have great, secure jobs and love where we live. So guess what happened when I learned our renter was moving out? Sheer panic. Certain doom. We may have to eat out less. How could God step out like this? I told him that I wanted our renter to buy our house and it looked like that was going to happen for awhile. Why would He do this to me? Why would he change the plans? I had it all worked out. We would have saved money on realtor fees. I have a bad back. I have two teenagers.  Why am I being persecuted?

And so I asked people to pray (aka I demanded that someone call God and tell Him to get back here stat.) I did my research, got a realtor, made the calls, planned, planned, planned and worried without ceasing. And guess what? He did show up. With a completely different plan. The moment my husband was beginning to fax our signed contract to the realtor, he got a call from an old neighbor. A colleague of his called, was moving back to Indy and needed immediate housing. He wanted to rent a house for a year in our school district. Ours was perfect. After some fast and furious texting, we have new renters. Again, with the seamless thing. Again, not my plan. 

It occurs to me that being lost, clueless or needy doesn't bother God in the least. He longs to meet our needs where we are. He doesn't care if we come to the throne without a business plan. He actually prefers that. "Come just as you are," he said. We are His beloved. And He positively loves it when we realize its our first day here. We have never been in this moment before. How do we presume to know what is best?

 I'm not sure I know how to let go of this. I'm the girl with a plan. Flying feels an awful lot like falling and I have no intention of jumping out of a perfectly good airplane. The truth of course is that airplane is fated to crash, I just don't know it yet. After all the ways He has provided and made our paths straight, how can worry still be my knee-jerk instinct? I don't know. I'm still working on this. I am so very grateful that His mercies are new every morning.  I do know that I want to please God. I want Him to smile when He sees me coming. And I want to go back to Narnia. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

My Apology

One of the most memorable interview moments I ever saw was that of Maria Shriver Kennedy Schwarzenegger.This time, she was not in the interviewer chair but instead on the receiving end of her good friend Oprah's questions. She was talking about her parents, specifically  her father, Sargent Shriver. She was telling about one of her most valued possessions, a crumpled piece of paper, she kept with her at all times at the insistence of her father.  In it was a love letter, not the kind you and I typically think of when we hear the words "love letter", but instead words of affirmation from her parents about her attributes, her identity,  what was good and lovable about her. She kept it with her always because, in the paraphrased words of her father, 'The world will tell you every day what you have done wrong, where your faults lie, and that you are not enough. It will beat you down and try to get you to focus on what you are not.' He wanted her to have something to redirect her attention, to keep her on a course of hopeful truth about her purpose and her true identity, a beloved child.

This week, dignitaries, heads of state and miners in Soweto alike will pause to remember the life of Nelson Mandela. Media will cover events live and streaming and inundate the waves with facts and perhaps some folklore about this storied individual. What we choose to believe and receive about his life and contribution is no doubt, slanted by our own experience, values, politics and choices. In the days since his passing I have seen many lovely tributes to this man, pictures and quotes, stories and news reel from  the pre-apartheid era. It didnt take long however, for the cynics to emerge, at first glance, respectful and objective but before long came the prickly questioning, followed by outright accusatory character assassinations. Over the years I have seen a number of pieces on this man and his life's remarkable journey and yes, these have been peppered with reports of adultery, political gain and missteps of one nature or another. 

Never once in all of that footage do I recall the term "perfect" being associated with this man. Good yes, revolutionary certainly, perfect, no. And so, when the news came last Thursday that he was no longer with us, I paused along with the rest of the world to reflect on what impact, if any his being here had on my life. I'm still processing that.

My parents arrived, coincidentally last Thursday to spend the winter with us on the Gulf Coast. Last night after working the previous 3, I woke up and walked into my living room to see my mom, Luke, and Nolin cuddling on the couch watching some made for tv movie and eating all sorts of bad things. I did the eye rolling smile and silently thanked God for this scene. I am so grateful that my kids are getting this amazing opportunity to share dinner conversation,  dish washing, a bathroom, cheesy movies and precious, precious time with their grandparents. They are being rooted and nurtured in the bosom of their family,  largely unware of the rare and resounding opportunity before them. I also like when my mom hugs me before I walk out the door and into God knows what at work. She is there when I come home too, after I'm beat up and sitting still long enough to question my mettle as a nurse after a frenzied shift. Was I enough? And she tells me I was, without ever uttering a word and hands me a cup of coffee. 

I have to believe I'm not alone in still needing this affirmation at age 44, or I'm as crazy as we have all always suspected.  The world is supposed to hurl fiery darts, I get that. However, when harsh criticism comes whizzing by my head, into my inbox, onto my fb page from the hand of fellow believers, I have to stop and scratch my head. Is this the business I'm supposed to be about? The best use of my time and energy? Its in those moments that I get it. I get why my unbelieving friends stand off, arms crossed with a look that says, "And ...exactly how is this any different from the rest of the world? THIS is what you call good news?"  Let me an offer an apology. Of course, I'm the pope, senator and executive director of exactly nothing so I cannot really speak for everyone. What I AM charged with, is defending the gospel and so I shall try. 

I pray that something, anything in my life bears witness to the fact that I know Jesus. In the timely words of Buddy the Elf, "I know him!!!" And I know what he wants me to do on this historic occasion. "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever can be admired... think on these things." Philippians 4:8. In my humble estimation, walking out of prison after being wrongfully held and abused for 27 long years and speaking forgiveness and reconciliation to my captors is pretty doggone lovely.  It also just happens to be the essence of the gospel I am charged with defending.

If you'll permit me an evangelical moment here, there is good news. Your father left you a crumpled note to keep in your wallet. He wanted you to know how very much you are loved and thought of.  "The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty enough to save you. He willtake great delight in you. The quietness of his love will calm you down. He will sing with joy because of you." Zephaniah 3:17. Talk about a love letter, that's a keeper. And thank you, Nelson Mandela for an imperfect and impactful life. One worth pausing to celebrate.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Oh Deer

There once was a girl who lived deep in the forest. Ok, so "girl" might be a bit of a stretch when you're closing in on 44, but it sounds better than "broad" or "this fed's old lady."  What I'm not exaggerating about is living in a forest.  The subdivision is called Lake Forest, it is Alabama's largest by far and with over 3000 homeowners, one of the largest in the country.  I have already been lost in my own neighborhood multiple times. I implemented a strict policy of no Lake Forest pick ups or drop offs with the kids after dark, shortly after moving to Daphne last year.  Leaving crumbs would do you no good. And now? I live here.

It would be impossible to characterize Lake Forest in any short summation and give you a true picture of what you might see. Every possible style of architecture from the past five decades is represented. Cape Cods, brick ranches, Georgians, Mediterranean stuccos, 80's Bavarian style homes, Spanish haciendas, Colonials, coastal retreats, and a host of what can only be categorized as "what were you thinking?!?" homes.  Together, somehow it works.  Like the messy art student's apartment.  It has an unnamed charm.

When we initially started looking for houses to rent, (we still own our house in Indy) I wasn't considering the area.  It just seemed a little dated.  But then I found the little black dress house.  You know the one, it fits you perfectly and it was destined to be yours.  Five bedrooms, gourmet kitchen I could literally see myself baking in, hardwoods throughout, wrap around porch, hot tub, massive deck, built on two lots complete with tangerine trees, grape arbor and hammock.  There was just one problem.  It wasn't for rent, it was for sale.

I have this husband though, who would walk over coals if he thought it would make me smile, so he called the realtor and started playing lets make a deal.  After a year on the market, the owner was game.  Or so we thought.  We were open to "lease to own" while we sold our house, but as it would turn out, the owner wanted the moon and we had to walk away.

I was truly devastated.  And if that sounds shallow, it was.  I had justified it in my mind though.  Great property, room enough for aging parents, great space to host youth group activities, and the listing sales price was a steal.  Good stewardship, right?  I really couldn't understand why God couldn't see how perfect this was for us.

Everything we looked at paled woefully in comparison in the following weeks.  Our lease was coming due very shortly.  And then, the rental market seemed to dry up.  Nothing was coming available.  When this property blipped on the radar, I was quick to make an appointment.  It was a rainy day and our walk-thru could not have been more than five minutes.  My impressions - it is sizeable, this carpet reeks of dog, that yard is too scary to even let my dog out, which is probably why this carpet reeks of dog.  And with that, we put down a deposit, with the assurance that yard and carpet would be addressed.

The night we got the keys, it was pouring down rain again.  The water had not been turned on.  The carpet odor seemed worse than ever and the yard was still a Brazilian jungle.  The rain stopped and they finally chopped down the jungle, sort of.  But what remained was worse.  Two deer.  No, not real ones.  The cheesy, fake ones that strange people put in their yards.  Only these apparently hadn't been weatherized and now looked like they had leprosy.

I was scheduled to work a few nights later and as I was walking through the dining room running late, I looked up and there was a winged monkey on my wall. Ok, they are actually called palmetto bugs but they are as big as winged monkeys.  I heard someone shriek (it was me) and all four menfolk came a-runnin' and managed to slay the beast.  A week or so ago, I ran over an albino armadillo.  The very next night I had to swerve heroically to miss a crossing possum.  The boys told me the shed is a haven for lizards.  I never plan to find out.  It seems there will be a new critter encounter almost daily.

It's funny though, we seem to have found our rhythm here.  We are actually eating dinner together and the neighborhood kids have already found us.  I have had two "I Love Lucy" sized disasters in my new non-gourmet kitchen, complete with billowing smoke, fire alarms and belly laughter.  Everyone gets nervous now when I start talking about a new recipe I found.

Yesterday our pastor was speaking about Abraham, and God telling him to go to a "land that I will show you."  That had to be pretty disconcerting.  Can you at least tell me how many bedrooms, Lord?  What about a hammock?

Now that I am here, it is so very clear to me.  He really does know best.  We are very happy in our new home.  I look back on what I thought was best in the little black dress house.  The yard was not fenced for our dog.  The hot tub didn't even work.  Too many steps to maneuver for my aging parents.  And worst of all, no leprous deer to gaze upon out the kitchen window.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Other Side of Mothers Day

My first job out of college was at the Indiana Women's Prison. And this was by choice.  I had a lucrative offer at Merrill Lynch waiting on me, but I was desperate to save the world to the tune of $15k less a year.  My orientation included a day with the chaplain, a short but very large Puerto Rican woman with a thick accent and even thicker facial hair, dressed head to toe in black, complete with priest collar.  She gave me the nickel tour of the chapel where I was sure all these women would find Jesus, told me about all of the programs and various visiting prison ministries and then started poking around to see just how green I really was.

"What do you think is the hardest day of the year for these offenders?"

"Well, it has to be Christmas.  I can't imagine what it must be like for these women to be away from their families on that day," said the know-it-all world savior.

"Not even close," replied the pudgy faced woman.  "Christmas has always been a disappointment for most of these women.  Poverty, abuse, alcoholic fathers, nothing under the tree.  They got used to that real quick. Mother's Day.  That's the day I'm here all weekend, all hours.  Just trying to stop the bleeding. Just trying to get to Monday."

I've thought about that conversation numerous times in the 20 years since I had it.  Why Mother's Day?  It always seemed like such a benign holiday to me on both sides. Construction paper cards, hugs and then we get to go out to eat.  Until 2001.

The year the face of the world changed, happened to also be when one of my own pillars came crashing down.  I lost a baby in late January and by May, no one still seemed to see that the world had stopped turning.  I started looking around and it was the darnedest thing.  Apparently, I wasn't the only person to ever be wounded by the institution of motherhood. The unbelievably insensitive comments were not exclusively headed my direction.  Who knew? So much of our identity as women is tied up in who we mother.

This is my weekend to work but because I work nights, I got home just in time to eat the annual Mother's Day breakfast attempt of my 3 sweet boys.  As fate would have it, we lost 2 patients yesterday, both women, both mothers.

I have of course, witnessed this scene before.  The daughters sit close by, holding their hands, stroking their hair.  The sons stand in the threshold of the door, afraid of the vulnerability of death but drawn to do something, so they guard the door.

I tried to picture what this would look like on my deathbed. Maybe I'm naive, but my boys are cuddlers.  They give me whacky hairdos and invade my space with regularity.  I think they will hold my hand and stroke my hair in that moment.

My life is filled with those who squirm when this holiday draws near.  I have friends who were never able to have children.  Those who have lost them.  Those enduring the grueling adoption process.  Those who are estranged from adult children.  Those going through the devastation of divorce.  Those with children with disabilities they must overcome daily.  Those who  live on another continent from mother or child.  Those whose children are in prison.  Those with children in addiction.  Those who will visit their mother in a nursing home and feel helpless guilt.  Those with a mother with Alzheimer's who no longer recognizes them.  Those who were in the foster care system.  Those whose pain is not eased by the years that have passed since they held their mothers hand.

Where should they all turn?  The glib answer is to their Heavenly Father and i know its true, but sometimes you want your mother.  And since I'm secretly Catholic, I envy the sentiment, "when I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be."

Let it be.  Let it be so, that we open our eyes and see who is just trying to stop the bleeding. Just trying to get to Monday.  Happy Mothers Day, to all who nurture.