Thursday, December 25, 2014

December 25

You were my miracle, Mom. The moment after you had just gotten out of surgery, when Dad told you Becca and I were in the room, and tears ran down your face. The fact that you ever got up, spoke, left the hospital bed at all. The 20 months that I got to spend with you that could have just as easily been 20 minutes, 20 hours, 20 days. 

You were my miracle. You are my miracle. 

I miss you so much it hurts my heart. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Complicated mending

1 year, 1.5 years, 4 years, 7 years, more. I guess I do just have to live one day at a time. 

Monday, October 13, 2014


I got an email today encouraging me to be courageous. This is me, trying to do that.

It's been almost a year and a half since my mom died (Friday marks the day). Overall, things are easier. I can remember her before her stroke. I've started expecting good things instead of bad. I have a great community, a loving boyfriend, faithful friends and a deep connection with Jesus.

But grief still comes in waves.

I'm still watching Gilmore girls (and even more so now that it's on Netflix!)

Sometimes I relive those last days as if they were yesterday.

I wish I could talk to my best friend: about boys, about haircuts, about family, about how much I love her.

I'm trying to balance grief and gratitude.

My eyes are so puffy it looks like they got bit by mosquitos.

And more than anything today I'm feeling the pain of loving her more than one more day.

All is not better. I still miss her so much I want to throw up. But it will get better. Slowly, with lots of help and lots of love. I have a lot to look forward to after this wave of grief recedes.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

October 5

Today is my birthday. And it's been a hard one.

Harder than last year. Even though last year was my first birthday without my mom, I still felt connected to her - I celebrated in San Jose, and even invited my friends to sleep over at my dad's. She wasn't there, but she still was. Her chair was there, her presence.

This year she's so much farther away. This year she's really gone. This year I'm really without her. This year, last year, every year from now she's not calling me to wish me a happy birthday (even though that's what I want more than anything in the world).

Even with an amazing birthday weekend spent with my boyfriend, even with beautiful friends who celebrated me today in thoughtful ways, I'm missing her. Missing her so much.

I wish, instead of missing her, I could just stay in the other birthday moments, the magical ones, the special ones. Because I know she'd want me to. Because I want to. Because I want my birthday to be filled with joy, not grief.

I should know by now that that's not how that works. Joy and grief - they aren't opposites. More often than not they go hand in hand, they exist right next to each other. Can I sit in that tension?

Today I don't want to. But maybe, tomorrow, since I'm now a year older and wiser, it'll make a little more sense.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

August 19, again

I've been feeling anxious lately. And there are a lot of good reasons for it - I just quit one of my part-time jobs (not my job with InterVarsity) and I'm taking classes at the local community college so I can become a nurse. I am pre-nursing, as they say.

It's a lot of change: quitting a job I had since before my mom was sick, getting back into school. And the last time big, potentially hard, change happened it wasn't just bad. It was earth-shattering, life-altering, your mom is going to die bad. So me and change aren't really good friends right now.

Today I went to my classes, and the world didn't implode. So that's a plus one in the pro column for this going-back-to-school change. But when I got home from class I was still feeling anxious. Overwhelmed. Like I wanted to sit on my floor with lots of tissues and cry my eyes out. (Which I might be doing as I type.)

And then I realized. Today is August 19.

Three years ago, to the day, my mom had her stroke, and my world DID implode. Everything did fall apart. I was able, with the help of family, friends, and Jesus, to put it back together again, mostly. But three years ago today the worst change I've ever experienced happened.

So I guess that's why I've been so anxious. Why this smaller change of going back to school has felt so big. I think that's a pretty good reason for my freak out. It makes me feel a little more sane.

What are the chances I would start school on the same day my mom had her stroke? Sometimes the universe has a funny sense of humor.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

God Our Mother

Today, I'm reflecting on this:

The description of this album is: "Created in honor of Mother's Day, God our Mother is a liturgy that explores both the scriptures that speak of God in a maternal context and the limits of human language in describing an infinite God. "

God is infinite, vast, greater than our human dichotomies. And I don't have an earthly mother anymore. So I need a heavenly mother, a forever mother, just as much as I need a heavenly father.

The rest of the album is found here:

Tracks 1 - 3. Those are for me today. May they bless you too.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Is it okay?

Yesterday I asked my mom if it was okay that I don't think about her all the time. I asked her if it was okay that I don't cry ever day anymore, that I don't miss her every moment, that I don't always think about the hole she left.

And she said, "Of course. I want you to be happy. I love you."

Because I don't - I don't think about her all the time. Not that I don't miss her - I do, a lot. But I don't think about it every second of every day anymore. I've finally come out of the haze of grief. Grief doesn't have the same hold it once had on my life anymore. Grief isn't taking over my days. Grief isn't the first thing I feel in the morning and the last thing I think about before I go to sleep at night.

I can look at her picture, conjure up a memory of her, be reminded of her and feel sad - but not overwhelmed. I can move again, I can dream again, I can smile again.

And I know that makes her glad.

Yesterday was a good day. Today has been a good day too. And even though I say this now - that I'm not slammed by grief, that I'm not overtaken - I know that some days I will be. So today, I reserve the right to be fine, to be happy. Tomorrow, two weeks from now, two months from now, I reserve the right to be whatever I feel like being.

Maybe grief will take over again for a little while - and that will be okay. But today, tonight, I just imagine her smile.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Every moment

I don't often talk to my mom. I'm not the person who goes out to her grave and has long conversations with her. I only occasionally tell her things, out loud or in my head, and they're mostly things like, "I miss you," and, "I love you."

But today I needed prayer. And I really wanted to call my mom and ask her to pray for me.

After crying a little bit about the fact that I can't do that anymore, I realized that I kinda can.

So I talked to her. I asked her to pray for me. I asked her to pray for me when she does her devotionals every morning, and when she falls asleep with her prayer journal on the nightstand beside her. I told her I couldn't do it without her prayers behind me, without her prayers holding me up. (And the tears kept coming, because I could picture her doing her devotionals every morning, and I could picture her prayer journal sitting on the nightstand.)

And then I heard her say, "Oh darling, I'm praying for you, every moment of every day."

And that was exactly what I needed to hear. (And exactly what sent me bawling.)

I don't know if its just what I wanted her to say in my head. Or if its God somehow speaking through my memory of my mother. I don't know, and I don't care. All I know - all I hope - is that my mom is out there, somewhere, praying for me, every moment of every day.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

"And what about those who don't have a mother?"

I didn't go to church today. The official reason is that I hadn't completed a full 24 hours of my strep throat antibiotics, and I might have still been contagious. But honestly, I'm so thankful for that excuse. Because mostly I hate going to church on Mother's Day.

In fact, I hate going anywhere on Mother's Day. I need more contact solution, but I would rather wear my somewhat uncomfortable glasses then brave Walgreens on a day like today. Church, stores, social media, commercials - all things to be avoided on a day celebrating the mother I don't have any more.

I thought it would be easier this year. Last year, Mother's Day fell exactly one week after my mom's memorial service, and about three and half weeks after she died. My dad and sister and I went out to lunch and shared stories about my mom and it felt fine. Good, even. So this year, past the one year mark, after having a breakdown-free Mother's Day last year, it should be easier, right?


I can't even bring myself to wish my friends who are mothers a happy Mother's Day. It's selfish, I know, but it just hurts too much. How can you be happy on a day like this? And my friends who are mothers who are themselves motherless, unmothered - I can't even imagine how they do it.

Today, articles like this one give words to my grief. They tell me I'm not overreacting by hiding today. And they remind me that I'm not alone.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Good Friday (a day late)

I made it through Maundy Thursday. Thursday - the one year anniversary of my mom's death. "Anniversary" always sounds too happy, to celebratory to be followed by "of my mom's death." So Thursday - the one year mark.

Then Friday. Good Friday - the emotional hangover day from Thursday. Good Friday, the day we remember Jesus dying on the cross. The day we feel the pain and despair of Jesus' death.

I was really nervous about Good Friday. I had already felt the pain and despair of death the day before, and I didn't think I could handle any more. But this year, instead of pain, instead of heartache, I felt joy. I felt the Good that makes this Friday good.

What's the Good? What can be good about Jesus dying, painfully, humiliatingly? What can be good about the death of someone who was supposed to save people living under Roman oppression?

The Good is that Jesus died. He died. He didn't get taken up in a chariot of fire (even though he could have), he didn't live immortally on earth (even though he could have). He died. Jesus, who was fully divine, fully God, died. Gods aren't supposed to die - especially not human deaths.

But Jesus died. Jesus went through what every single human being goes through - death. Jesus didn't skip over the hard, ugly, sad part of humanity. He experienced it, he felt it, he died. And he didn't just die an easy, comfortable death. He died a horribly painful and agonizingly slow death. He hung in pain, gasping for breath and crying for respite ("My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?").

Jesus' death on Good Friday, even more than his birth, is the incarnation for me. Is the moment where Jesus truly knows what it means to be human, to be broken, to be falling apart, even though he didn't do anything to deserve it. Jesus felt death; he died. Just like you will, just like I will, just like my mom did.

So when the memories of my mom's last few days play before my eyes - when I remember the pain and effort every breath took - I remember Jesus' death. I remember that he knows what it's like to feel pain at the end. He know what it's like to struggle for breath. He knows what it's like for your body to shut down. He knows because he experienced it.

And that is good news. That is compassion - suffering with. That is why I follow Jesus - fully human, fully divine, who died and rose again.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

From St. Luke's Hospital (2)

"If I can learn a little how to die,
To die while body, mind, and spirit still
Move in their triune dance of unity,
To die while living, dying I'll fulfill
The purpose of the finite in infinity.
If God will help me learn to die today,
Today in time I'll touch eternity,
And dying, thus will live within God's Way.
If I can free myself from self's iron bands,
Freed from myself not by myself, but through
Christ's presence in this simple room, in hands
Outstretched in holy friendship, then, born new
In death, truth will outlive the deathly lie,
And in love's light I will be taught to die."

--- The Weather of the Heart by Madeleine L'Engle

Maundy Thursday

The reading for today, Maundy Thursday, from the Book of Common Prayer:

"Let this be recorded for a generation to come,
    so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord:
19 that he looked down from his holy height;
    from heaven the Lord looked at the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners,
    to set free those who were doomed to die,

21 that they may declare in Zion the name of the Lord,
    and in Jerusalem his praise,
22 when peoples gather together,
    and kingdoms, to worship the Lord."

--- Psalm 102: 18 - 22 (emphasis added)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

If I don't go to sleep...

If I don't go to sleep then tomorrow will never come, right?

If I don't go to sleep then it will never be the one year anniversary of my mom's death.

If I don't go to sleep then my mom will always have been gone less than a year.

Less than a year I can handle. Less than a year of seeing someone is fine. But a year? More? Then it's just too real. Then it's just too much time since I last saw her, spoke to her, kissed her cheek, held her hand.

I know I'm not supposed to dread tomorrow. It doesn't have to be the worst day ever, blah blah blah. But how can I not dread it? How can I not dread the day I've been preparing for since last April 17th? How do you even prepare for something like this?

Maybe, if I don't go to sleep...

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Birthday cards

I have these two birthday cards that I gave my mom last year. One is a popup card of the beach that has recorded wave sounds and seagull calls when you press a button. The other is the bright pink birthday crown that says "Birthday Princess" on it that she wore pretty much all day.

Last year her birthday was the beginning of the end. By the end of the day her crown was off and she'd had a catheter put in. The beach card would still make her smile when she heard it, but her eyes wouldn't always open. Every day after it just got worse and worse.

She died two weeks after her birthday. Two weeks from today will be the one year anniversary of her death.

I don't really know what the next two weeks will look like. But I do know that it feels like I'm re-entering the murky waters of grief that I was able to step out of last month. It's both familiar and frightening.

Today, to celebrate her birthday I made dessert for my small group. Chocolate Amaretto Cheesecake (her specialty), and an apple crisp. I'll probably stare at the cards for awhile, as I sit and remember.

And then we'll just see where tomorrow takes me.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Filler (eleven months)

I think this month's mostly filler.

Yesterday was eleven months. Honestly, it sounds like a weird number. Ten sounded normal, twelve is where the vocab switches to a year, but eleven just seems so liminal. 

This month feels liminal too, like the calm before the storm. Or at least the most calm, the least grief-filled a month has been in a long, long time (two years and seven months, but who's counting).

I'm happy to live in this in-between state, especially when it's filled with sunshine. But everything looks towards April. I catch myself looking forward in my calendar, completely skipping over and forgetting that it's still only March. Instead I feel the pull of impending doom - the month that holds both my mom's birthday and deathday. Oh, and Easter, for good measure. Thank goodness it also holds spring break and days off and hopefully some rest. 

So this month on the 17th, instead of being intentional with my grief, I got a massage, and watched the Veronica Mars movie (so good, for all you marshmallows out there), and made Reuben sandwiches, and spent time with  a good friend. Because what's an anniversary without Veronica Mars? And why not? I still think this month's mostly filler. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ash Wednesday, again

Remember you are dust, and to dust you will return.

Today the season of Lent begins. A season to mourn, to pray, to be reminded that we are ashes, we are human, we make mistakes. In the Christian tradition people often give up something for the 40 days leading up to Easter, to fast and empty themselves like Jesus fasted in the desert before starting his ministry.

Last year, when people asked me what I was giving up for Lent, I said I was giving up my mom. It was a little bit of gallows humor, but also pretty true. She died 17 days after Easter.

This year I'm giving up my mom for Lent again, but in a different way.

Last Sunday my housemate, who knows what its like to lose a mom, prayed for me after church. She prayed that I could give my mom over to God, and that I could release the grief that I had been holding onto for more than two years. After she prayed for me I felt lighter, freer, happier. I've had three good days in a row, which, after a hard February, feels pretty amazing.

So this year, instead of being a time of mourning, Lent is going to be a time of preparing. A time of preparing for Easter, preparing for the resurrection of Jesus, preparing for hope.

For these next 40 days I'm going to keep releasing my grief and giving it back to God, who can hold it better than I can. For these next 40 days I'm going to remember to be present, to see God's little resurrections all around me. For these next 40 days I'm going to live the promise of the tree of life, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations.

I don't really know what this looks like. There may be days when God says, "here, grieve a little bit. It's important, and a part of your healing." There may be days when I have to eat lots of chocolate to make it through. I'm hoping there are days where I can spend time with good friends in the midst of trees and babbling brooks, outside of the city and outside of the norm. I'm hoping there are days where I sit in coffee shops sipping hot beverages and reading good books. I'm hoping there are more days of joy and beauty and hope than I've had in a long time. And I'm hoping that there are days of remembering, remembering her, with love and with longing, and maybe even a little bit of peace.

This year for Lent I'm giving up my mom. I'm letting go of my grief. And I'm remembering the promises of healing, of life in death, of hope.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The little things

I have an iPod touch that my parents gave me for my birthday in 2012. I don't have many games on it, but I have a few - Fruit Ninja, Text Twist, Temple Run 2. 

I recently had to restore my iPod because  of some weird issues, but I thought hey, no problem - everything important is backed up. I can access my notes, I can reload my music, it'll be fine. 

Today I went in to play Temple Run 2. I'm actually pretty good at it, and I wanted a little confidence boost. I had racked up all these points and lives, and I was excited to play without worrying about dying - I could just use one of my many lives and start up where I left off. 

But everything was gone. All the lives, all the points, all the extra features I had earned for my avatar. I was back to square one - zero points, zero lives, and some dude as the avatar instead of the kickass female character I had worked my way up to.

It sounds ridiculous that this would matter. I mean, who the heck cares? It's just a game, a game I haven't played in months. 

Except I played it this time last year. A lot, in fact. When my mom was to the point in her decline when all she could really do during the day was sit in her chair and watch reruns of NCIS, I would sit nearby and play Temple Run. When she got to the point where she couldn't get out of bed anymore, I would hold her hand with one hand and hold my iPod in the other and play it as she slept. It kept me entertained, and occupied but not too occupied, and probably a little sane. And now all those stupid points and all those stupid hours - they're gone. 

Of course I know that those hours aren't really gone. I still have the memories, and the blog entries, and the images of her burned in my brain. But every little piece, every little keepsake matters right now, in this first year. So I just wish I could get those pieces - the tangible ones, the ones that aren't supposed to be lost - back. Just for a little while. Just so I can remember. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014


I've been feeling overwhelmed lately. There's so much to do at work, so many friends to spend time with, so much grief, so much... I can't even gather all the pieces of everything that are swirling around calling for my attention.

As I was sitting and thinking about being overwhelmed, and about being kind to myself in the midst of it all, I thought about my mom. I thought about how determined and persistent and organized she was before she got sick - she was driven, just like me. And then I remembered what she was like after she got sick.

She was still driven - she worked her butt off through physical, speech, and occupational therapy. She went through chemo and radiation, and a multitude of pills and injections, and all with lower physical capacity. But she also let herself off the hook - she ate burgers and fries, she had dessert every day, and she watched TV without cross-stitching, or reading, or all the other things she used to do to multitask. She treated herself. And I think if I asked her for advice today she'd say, "treat yo self."

Thinking about her telling me to treat myself overwhelmed me, but this time with grief. I was wracked with sobs and having a hard time breathing. My heart physically hurt, and it felt like it was going to be ripped apart. And I couldn't control it - I couldn't stop crying, I couldn't start breathing, I couldn't stop my heart from hurting.

So I prayed. I said "Jesus, help me." And into my head came Psalm 23. Over and over again I prayed through my sobs, saying, "the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want... even though I walk through the valley of death and dying I will fear no evil, for you are with me." Over and over and over again until I could breath, until my heart didn't hurt. It was weird, and good, and comforting, all at once.

Now I have a plan to keep my self from being overwhelmed - treat yo self, and Psalm 23. I think my mom would have been proud.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Run away (10 months)

Today I just want to run away.

Today I want to go somewhere where spring is in full bloom and there's no tinge of sadness to it. Where I'm far away from my life now, and even farther away from my life when she was sick. I want to get a new number and a new name, disconnect from everything and reinvent myself as someone else, someone completely new, someone who isn't missing a mother.

Everything reminds me of her. So if I leave everything behind I won't be sad anymore. Except its not really things or even people that remind me of her. It's just being; being me makes me feel the pain of her not being here anymore.

So I'll start over, be someone else and I won't feel any pain anymore. Right? Isn't that how it works?

Because I'm tired. I'm tired of hurting and I'm tired of crying and I'm tired of grieving and I'm tired of being exhausted and I'm tired of going back to my life, my jobs, my routines from before, as if there wasn't a hole where my mom used to be.

Rationally I know that running wouldn't do much. In fact, I'd probably feel more alone, more sad, more in pain. But for the moment running feels like a reassuring fantasy.

Thursday, February 6, 2014


I can still remember that night (that morning) she died. I can walk through it, step by step in my mind. And it's not just a memory. I remember it vividly, like I'm re-watching a scene from a movie I've seen a hundred times. I know every line of dialog, every camera change, every mark of every character in the scene.

Most of the time I don't revisit it. I don't relive it. But sometimes something triggers it. A story from someone else who has lost someone, a word that connects me back, an image that looks a little like something from those last days.

It's painful. It takes my breath away, it takes my words away, it takes away everything except reliving those moments and a steady stream of tears. And so I ride it out, I walk through the scene over and over again until I catch my breath, or until someone brings me back, or until...

And then I'm back again, here, now. And my heart feels heavy and my face feels wet and I just feel tired.

But I also feel release. Like I just exhaled a breath I was holding, like I just stretched out a muscle that was cramping.

Maybe if I walk through it enough I'll be able to let the memory go. Maybe it will be less vivid, be less raw, be less real. Maybe the edges will start to get fuzzy, and it will be beautiful instead of painful and soft instead of razor sharp, and.... Maybe.

Monday, February 3, 2014

It was always going to be a totally shit time (Part 2)

This time last year my mom's tumor came back.

This time last year we knew the end was coming. Really coming. With an actual timetable - two to three months. (It was two months and 13 days.)

This time last year I wasn't prepared - for how short the time ways, for the neverending tears, for the supportive and loving friends, for her to die.

And this time around I'm still not prepared. I'm not prepared for how much this hurts, even nine and a half months out. I'm not prepared for the tears. I'm not prepared for how exhausted I am. I'm not prepared for how little I feel capable of doing.

I don't know what these next two months and 13 days are going to look like. Or the next months and days after that. I guess I'll just have to be kind to myself, let myself veg and mourn and sleep and cry. I don't really know what else to do to make it bearable.

Except for hugs - I might ask you, friends, for hugs. Because sometimes that's just want you need.

Thursday, January 23, 2014


Sometimes I think I should be doing more. I compare myself to my friends, who are doing really cool things - volunteering with local organizations, tutoring kids who have recently come to the US, running a community garden, teaching ESL, leading the youth group at my church. Comparatively, I'm doing next to nothing - no service, little connection with my neighbors and this neighborhood I love. I moved here to my neighborhood to be present with people and to serve, and I don't always feel like I'm doing that. 

Today in my small group we read through the Beatitudes, or the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 5. As we were reading, verse 4 stuck out: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."

Blessed. Blessed. Blessed are those who mourn

This tells me that I am blessed. I am mourning, so I am blessed. 

This makes me think that maybe mourning is just as important as doing cool things. Mourning is just as important to God as serving others - they both are a part of what being like Jesus looks like. 

And this tells me that the church should be a place where mourning is acceptable. The church should be a place where we're not afraid to talk about mourning, just like we're not afraid of talking about justice. 

I may still compare. I may still yearn for the day when I can be out there with my friends, tutoring kids and pulling weeds. But until that time comes I can follow Jesus best by mourning. May that mourning be a blessing to me, to my friends, and to my church community. May we teach one another to be more, act more like the Jesus we follow. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Lethargy (9 months)

Yesterday marked 9 months. 

This afternoon I basked in the unseasonably warm afternoon sun that she would have enjoyed because she was always so cold. 

This evening I donned my Christmas present - knee length wool socks made in Russia that she would have rocked because socks were her favorite accessory after the stroke. 

All through today, even with the warm sun and socks, even with it being a lazy Saturday, I felt the lethargy of grief that I've been able to avoid for most of this month. The bone tired, heavy limbed lethargy that makes it hard to do anything but sit on a bench, or binge watch TV. Thankfully today I did both, and I didn't do them alone. (Thanks, friends, for being willing to let me be tired with you, for not expecting me to entertain.)

The lethargy comes in waves, just like the grief. And the waves, at least for now, are fewer and smaller than before. The moon may change the tides, though, in the next few months. But for now I hope that tomorrow the sun and the Sunday bring a little more life.

Friday, January 3, 2014

A new year

The sky is clear tonight, and the stars are bright. I sat on the swing in my backyard and just looked up at the beauty of the stars - my year-round version of Christmas lights.

It's the start of a new year, which generally means you pause and reflect on the old year. But I don't really want to do that. It's too painful, too raw, too heavy right now. And those reflections will come in their own time - we're getting near the time when the cancer came back last year, where my mom really started to die. Those reflections will be fresh this year in February, March, April. So I'll wait until then to look back at those months.

But instead of reflecting, today I caught myself thinking "what if?" What if my dad had never gotten hurt? What if my mom never had cancer? What if? What if?

And, because I'm a details person, I thought it through. I thought through the what ifs. Would I have spent as much time in San Jose caring for my mom if my dad hadn't had any physical limitations? Would she still have become my best friend? Would I be as close to my dad as I am? Would I have have such a deep friendship with person a, stayed in touch with person b, reconnected with person c? What if? What if?

The short answer: no. No, I probably wouldn't have spent as much time in San Jose, I probably wouldn't have known my mom as my best friend, I probably wouldn't be as close as my dad, or with friends a, b and c. And I wouldn't be who I am today, a woman who has done her work and engaged with her grief and come out the other side, strong and courageous, a beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox.

Last year was a hard year. (That's an understatement.) But it was a beautiful year, too. So I will live in that dissonance, and remember the year, in time, with tears of pain and of joy. And in the meantime I look forward to the new year. I hope to find life and joy and good things in 2014. Or at the very least, I hope it's just a little better than 2013.