Friday, April 14, 2017


Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

It seems like every year during Holy Week I feel a stronger tie to my mom. This year the day of her death falls the day after we remember that Christ is risen, he is risen indeed. (I can't decide if it's a good reminder, or a cruel joke. It may change minute to minute.)

There's also something about being with someone as they near death that makes the story of Jesus' death so much more real. Placing flowers at the foot of the cross during the Good Friday service feels too much like putting flowers on my mother's grave. The pain and anguish Jesus felt as he died his violent death reminds me too much of the pain my mother felt as she waited for hers.

This year, as we read the story of the burial of Jesus, I could feel Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus wrapping Jesus cold, lifeless body in burial spices and strips of linen. The body of Jesus must have felt like my mother's - the skin losing heat as time passed, becoming more rigid. They lovingly, carefully, enrobed Jesus corpse with the linen strips. I was thankful the men from the funeral home had covered her body (likely her body in a bodybag) with a thick velvet blanket. And then, it was finished - Jesus' body was sealed in the tomb, and my mother was cremated, buried weeks later. A part of me wishes I could have done what Joseph and Nicodemus did - care for the body of their loved one after death, as they did in life. But I don't know if I would ever be able to get rid of the feeling of her cold, cold skin if I had.

It's more real when you've been there - been present at that moment of death. The story of Jesus isn't just an abstract - it becomes yours. My friend who lost her daughter felt the same. Experiencing death, in person, in your family - it changes the story of Holy Week.

I had to leave the Good Friday service quickly. All the lights went out, and every time I closed my eyes I saw her, dead, in lying in bed. Mary, his disciples, Mary Magdelene - they must have felt the same. They must have remembered his lifeless body for days, or longer.

Because it's been four years, but the image is still as fresh as if it was yesterday.


Sometimes living in a tight-knit community like mine is hard. We hurt each other, have conflict, and we have to do the messy work of trying to make it right. With differences in race, gender, upbringing, faith traditions, and on and on and on, it takes a commitment and grace to love each other through the muck.

The beautiful thing, the thing that keeps me coming back to this complicated family of mine, is that when things are hard, when there is grief and loss, I am never alone.

So to my grace-filled friends, who sent me the beautiful flowers today: thank you, dear ones, for the gift. Thank you for sitting with me in my grief, even four years out. Thank for you for understanding, and not minimizing my pain. Thank you for helping me to remember my mom. I'm so glad you are will me.

Thursday, April 13, 2017


Every Maundy Thursday I sit vigil with my mom, as we sit vigil with Jesus. We sit, we remain, we watch, we pray as Jesus prepares himself for death. I do the same, did the same, as my mom's body shut down and we watched for the end.

Every year my church remembers Jesus' last supper and his preparation for death by reading the story from John 13 - the story of Jesus sharing a last meal with his disciples, of Jesus washing his followers feet, of Jesus preparing them and calling them to love one another as he has loved them.

Jesus' choice to wash his followers feet was a blessing. It was preparation, doing for them what he wanted them to do for others. He told them, "this is how you do it. This is how you love - you do what I have done." And he sealed that call with the water and the oil, and the tenderness of his hands as he dried their feet on his towel.

I didn't get a verbal blessing from my mom before she died. There were no words of, "this is how you live life, as my daughter." She didn't have the mental capacity after her stroke to put thoughts like that together, and she didn't have the physical ability to say it near the end.

But tonight I received that blessing, that blessing of a mother. I received that blessing as a mother and her daughter washed my hands, dried them with a towel, and prayed, "love others as Jesus loved us."

I received that mother's blessing tonight - from a mother who is not mine, four years after her death. I know it was a gift from my mom, a gift from Jesus, a gift I really needed this week.

Love others as Jesus first loved us. I'm going to try, Mom. I'm going to try.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Every year (month. week. day.)

I feel anxious. I know because I feel this pressure in my chest, like I'm having trouble breathing. This tightness that no amount of deep breaths or stretches can take away.

I go through my list of things that I could be anxious about. Going into the hospital tomorrow for my clinical rotation? Kinda. This or that thing that I may have forgotten? Maybe. I do a few things to feel more prepared for the next day, and I wait, hoping the tightness will leave.

Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn't. And when it doesn't, I know - I miss my mom.

Every time. Every time I feel anxious, feel the tightness, and I can't find the reason, somewhere deep underneath it's because I miss my mom. And even though I know this, even though I'm used to this, I never jump there first. I always have to work through the list, the this and that that could be causing my anxiety.

Mostly it comes out of nowhere - slowly building until I can't ignore it anymore. The chest tightness, the jaw clenching. The ways my body responds to a subconscious grief I don't even recognize.

Today it's because it's Palm Sunday, and she was born on Palm Sunday, 62 years ago. She came as the King came in, declaring his power and glory forever and ever.

But really, if I'm being honest, it's not because of Palm Sunday. It's because it's the Masters.

Every year I watch the Masters. My dad watched golf, so I watch golf. I really enjoy it, at least occasionally. The Masters are a must.

And every year it hurts.

Because four years ago when I watched the Masters she was dying. Really dying. Heart rate increasing, fast, shallow breaths, low blood oxygenation dying. Eyes closed, can't move, can't speak, asleep all day dying. I remember sitting in her bedroom with my dad, with her, watching golf. I can still picture it, clearly, like I just looked at a photograph.

It's been four years, but when I read my posts from those last two weeks of her life I can feel it happening, all over again. I can remember her whisper, remember her weakness, remember the loose grip of her fingers.

Every year I watch the Masters, and I remember that time with her. That end-of-life, body-shutting-down time. That sacred time.

And every year I feel that inexplicable tightness in my chest. Or every month. Every week. Every day.

All I have to do is wait, and it eventually comes down to the obvious: I miss my mom.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Monday, March 27, 2017

The gauntlet

My friends have this time of year where almost all of the anniversaries and family birthdays fall. They call this time of year "the gauntlet."

April is my gauntlet. That time of year where I have to grit my teeth, give myself more grace, and plan my crying time. That time of year where I stop making plans and just let the days happen. I keep hoping it will get easier. I feel guilty when it does. Even knowing that it's coming is taking its toll.

A week from today my mom would have been 62. She was born on April 3rd, on Palm Sunday. Add 58 years to that, and she was two weeks away from dying. April holds both her birthday and her death day. It sucks.

My life is so different now, four years later. I'm on my way to being a nurse, and embroiled in the tests and papers and clinical days that entails. I'm glad to be surrounded by classmates who make it their job to be caring - it makes it easier to fall apart, and easier to ask for help.

I'm married now, and my husband is wonderful. Even when I burst into tears for no obvious reason he's quick to hold me and comfort me. We've figured out how to care for one another well, even when things are heavy.

My dad has remarried - a lovely, loving woman. But she's not my mom, so it's just weird. Reminiscing over old photos of my parents together has a different tenor to it. I'm glad for him, and I really love his wife, but its hard.

And I just feel like she's missing. She's missing - as in she's missing out on all these beautiful things in my life that I wish I could share with her. She's missing - as in I think she's missing me, or at least I hope she is. She's missing - as in she's not here, and I feel like she should be. She's missing, and I can't find her, and I won't ever be able to. She just... missing.

Deep breaths, Katye. Deep breaths. The gauntlet has begun.