To honor when it isn’t fair

Mom draws at the lake

Our paths connected through our children and so I didn’t expect to be sitting there talking about our mothers. Kelly is one of those rare, faithful confidantes who is an exceptional blessing to know, the kind who sees you through weary, complicated trials and you shake your head sometimes marveling at the loyalty and wondering how you gained such a friend.

Behind me a sheet of water was eternally cascading down an ornamental fountain. The small café was cozy with warm colored walls, burnt yellows and cinnamon, just big enough for a dozen or so comfortable patrons. I was late to our breakfast appointment and greeted her with a hung head. She laughed at me and was thankful I had still come.

log at Billychinook

“How are the kids? And your mom?” Kelly’s inquiring brown eyes searched out the answer, glossy auburn locks falling perfectly past her shoulders, and I remembered I hadn’t applied a spot of make-up in my hurry.

The waitress offered the special, eggs Benedict with Hollandaise lime sauce and cooked pears over sourdough, or something along those lines, I couldn’t remember but ordered it anyway. I squinted at her hard, trying to recall just where it was the previous day I’d seen her. It came to me, it was the library. Her son brushed past mine, my freckled boy who clutched the Scooby-Doo video in his little hands, utterly cheered to find it there, finally. This mother with son at the library – I’m always so happy to see mothers with children at the library, it’s my strange joy. And her son wanted that video, too, and he squalled to his tall, blonde and beautiful mother, “It’s not fair!”

And those were the very words I painfully expressed to Kelly over coffee and breakfast platters, just as petulant as that child. Why should I have to take care of my mother? She barely took care of me, I practically raised myself, and it wasn’t fair, and sadly it was only at the end of the meal I considered my unforgiveness.

It happened that some years after I met Kelly, her mother moved in with her, too, and like mine, has degenerative brain problems. She’s forgotten how to comb her hair and take a walk. Her conversation has dwindled to “no.” Kelly gracefully chided me with, “At least yours talks.”

mom at Sahalie Falls

And grace it is that I need at this moment, and the compassionate forbearance of mercy. I know it. I know it by its absence. I know it by the tightness in my chest when she walks into a room. Oh, grace to cleanse my irritated soul. The way she shuffles, asks again what day it is, tells me she forgot how to whistle, burps at the table, a thousand ways that need grace.

I mourn that I’m not doing this well. I mourn that my own children observe my lack of grace and mercy, because one day, they may need to draw on it.

Kelly explained how she came by new grace for her mother. “Last time,” she shared, speaking of her mom’s prior six-month stay, “it was really hard and I was always frustrated.” But then she returned from retrieving her mom from a sibling who shares the care-taking, and here sensitivity laced Kelly’s every word. The mother she knew had never a hair out of place and things ordered just so, but now her hair was stringy and unkempt, her clothes ill-fitting, and her exercise unattended to. Sometimes it is seeing the indifference in others that provokes us to tenderness.

“Is that honoring to my mother?” Kelly had asked herself with renewed humanity.

Those words tumbled around my head. Honoring. The sheets of water continued to course behind my chair, molecule after molecule, and I wanted to jump right in and wash away the vexation, the impatience, the anger. Could I replace those insipid characters with esteem, respect, appreciation, love? And how? One molecule at a time by the grace of God.

waterspout at Yachats

Is it fair that Jesus died for sinful me? Is it fair that I don’t deserve his grace but receive it freely and abundantly? I guess fairness really can’t be part of this equation, but forgiveness, yes, to forgive as I have been forgiven. And that will be another story, my friends.

He has show you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

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7 Responses to To honor when it isn’t fair

  1. heidi says:

    oh… My dad, the most brilliant man I ever knew… Now shuffles like a child. Tires easily. Forgets my name.

    I don’t pray for grace toward him any more. I beg. It is a death to that inner child who longs to look at her parent and still lean.

    I totally *heart* your words. And your heart.

  2. Beautiful, as always. It is so hard to be at this season where we participate in our parents’ aging. Today, my mother told me how she failed her Alzheimer’s test because she interrupted the nurse to ask her what in the world she was saying: “Pennies or Peonies?” and then forgot what the first 2 words in the list she was supposed to remember were. She never could figure out what the nurse was trying to say, but my mother did tell her that her southern accent was too thick…

  3. Jen says:

    Heidi, it’s tough, I know, and I know about begging for grace. It must feel lonely, to understand that your dad’s presence in your life is shifting from strong tower to run to, to a tower that is falling. I wonder what it is the Lord wants us to learn from this? It’s something big and universal, but I’m still trying to figure it out. Love to you…see you soon. ♥

  4. Jen says:

    Sarah, I love, really love, how you said “participate” in our parents’ aging. It’s acknowledging that we have a choice to embrace this for all it’s worth, to wring out every measure of good and growth we can. Your mom’s test, that was so funny to me! Finding the humor, it’s so good! Kelly, my friend from today’s story, and I, we laughed a lot today, I should have included that in my post. It’s important. Love Jen

  5. Anita says:

    Jennifer, I honour you for looking after you mother. It is an amazing self-sacrifice that I stand in awe of.

    Are there siblings who could share the burden? Or state-supported help with her care, or respite care? For a few hours a day at least?

    You are an amazing woman!!

  6. Jen says:

    Anita, Thank you. But there is no honor for me until I do this with the right heart. Writing this post was helpful, my friend was helpful, prayer is helpful, I’m getting there! (And my husband is helpful! He’s so good with my mom, so funny and lightens everything up).

    I have help when I need it. My siblings are all out of state, work full time away from home mostly, and so I’m really the best suited to be doing this, and I don’t have any begrudging feelings about that, and I know that ultimately it is a BLESSING.

    I’m grateful for your thoughts, Anita. Have a great weekend! love Jen

  7. Jenny says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I’m often have to be reminded of the same.

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