Our Mom

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Our mom turned 90 in September and we felt fortunate that up until that time she was still living at home, able to go out for the occasional adventure. During the last week of August we went to the county fair and a family birthday party; a true gift for all of us. Now, at the end of September, everything is different. And it causes me to look back, once again.

Growing up, we were a family with troubles and joys, struggles and celebrations. We had times of riding the wave, and times when we were tossed in its surf. But thru it all, or because of it all, we formed a close, tight-knit bond, one to the other. While we learned from dad about being our own person, mom taught us that together we formed a picture of completeness — a one for all, all for one philosophy of sorts.

It is from this whole family picture, ever growing and changing as each new member is added, that the shadow of dad is still seen. Now, due to dementia, there is a forming of the space my mom leaves; a space deeply filled with love and memories. And it is from this place that my sisters and I, our husbands, and our children, keep the memories warm, the home fires still burning, the light still on by how much we love our family, with all its flaws, unusualness, bumps, warts, bruises, and stumbles.

I know from experience that, in time, our little 3-ring circus will re-configure around the spaces, and bond together in a much different way, forming a new picture. And that, eventually, this new family picture will take hold, tying our hearts together, re-shaping our lives.

But, for now, we are caught in the in-between of dementia. I wish, more than anything, our mom could come back to us the way she was. I still catch myself going to the phone to call her, expecting to talk the way we used to. But, there is a truth here to accept now, and only prayer can reach it. And, we know that there is a much better place waiting for her.

Thanks mom for all you still are, were, and forever will be.FullSizeRenderIMG_0112IMG_2695

A Cupcake In A Tree

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One of my sisters, Jayne, has a friend whose husband, Tom, is in a nursing home. Jayne went to visit. Since Jayne, and her friend, Theresa, had not seen each other for awhile, there was much talk and chatting about this and that. At one point, Theresa, and her daughter, Lisa, asked Jayne if she had seen their “cupcake”. Replying no, that she hadn’t, they pointed to a metal pail hanging from the branches of a tree just outside Tom’s window, which overlooked the courtyard. As it had been snowing on and off, the snow had filled the pail, piling up and creating a pretty mound of snow-frosting on top. “Our cupcake”, they said. Jayne agreed. It was so pretty — being all by itself, just hanging from the tree right outside the window — leaving her to wonder who put the pail there and why. But some questions go unanswered and so Theresa, Tom, Lisa, and Jayne were content to see a cupcake, provided by nature, hanging all alone, in the courtyard of the nursing home, for their enjoyment and wonder.

As Jayne was preparing to leave, and was saying her goodbyes, Theresa’s son, Joe, stopped by to visit. Theresa asked him “have you seen our snow cupcake?” He is interested. Where? There. And he replies: “do you know that is what grandma used to call me? Her nickname for me was ‘cupcake’. In fact, I just got a cupcake tattoo the other day,” He remarked, pointing to the location on his shoulder. A second of a pause while this new information sinks in. And then the answer: a sign that grandma was with them — she was watching over Theresa’s husband, watching over Theresa, watching over the family. A sign of love — that no matter what, I am with you — always — you are not alone.

Moments like this make me wonder. I let myself contemplate the spiritual world that surrounds us, the world of our Father, who is in heaven, revealing to us a supernatural world that is more real, more attentive, more personal, more loving, and more everlasting, than the temporal world we know here on earth. Pausing for a moment, and thinking, about this cupcake-in-a-tree: yes, the snowy days filled a pail that was hanging from a tree. Snow does that. Nothing unusual or extraordinary there. And yes, when the bucket became filled, it overflowed and created a mound on top. And yes, if one paid attention, it would look like a cupcake. But … why a pail in a tree? And why that particular tree? If it had been on the other side of the courtyard, it wouldn’t have been noticed by Theresa’s  family, a family that had a connection to a cupcake in a tree —

I can’t help but imagine that the connection was just waiting to be discovered. And then Theresa’s son came, bringing the cupcake story to its wonderful conclusion: grandma sent a message from heaven, a blessing to them all, that she is here. Now, the world calls this type of thing “just a coincidence”. But what if a coincidence is really an encounter with the living, Father God? His calling card to us? Sending us messages through our loved ones? Wouldn’t that be a tasty morsel? Just maybe, if we keep our eyes open wide enough, we will see cupcakes, made out of snow, in the branches of trees, there just for us. May we each taste our own sweet “coincidences” today … sent for our hope, pleasure, delight, and joy.