87: Turning to Mom

87: Turning to Mom

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Angels and Miracles

Turning to Mom

Because I feel that, in the Heavens above, the angels, whispering to one another, can find, among their burning terms of love, none so devotional as that of “Mother.”

~Edgar Allen Poe

I was finding lots of things as I looked through the old cedar chest. Ornaments that I made in elementary school — could that really be fifty years ago? Cards I had received and stashed away, cards Mom had received and stashed away before me. That chest held two intertwined lifetimes of memories. Finally my eye caught the glint of the coil-bound notebook that I had been searching for. I knew the pages contained the comforting words I needed.

It had been a long and strange day, and I was seeking comfort. Earlier that day, I completed the final tests in a long litany of pokes, prods, and X-rays. Now I needed something to calm me as I waited for the verdict. I felt alone — abandoned, even. I needed the loving assurance that only a mother can give, and that was why I was poring through that chest.

Mom had faced similar moments as she journeyed down her own cancer path decades earlier. I had experienced her journey by her side, and then laid her to rest.

What I was seeking now were her thoughts as she waited for “the news.” That’s what I knew she had tried to write about in this notebook that I had bought for her. Peeling back the cover now, I was eager to learn from her wisdom and was immediately struck by the dearth of words. So few pages had been filled — and two of them were in my own handwriting. This surely wouldn’t be enough to hold onto. But then I began to read . . .

Dear Mom,

This isn’t anything fancy, but this type of scribbler is just what I use for my journal. I think your idea for writing your experiences/ thoughts/revelations down is a really good one. It will likely help you a lot and, who knows, it may end up helping other people. But I think you should do it for yourself first—writing can be very therapeutic.

I looked up from the notebook, struck that the person “it may end up helping” turned out to be me. I didn’t think of this at the time I had purchased it, of course, but this simple notebook and the few pages that had been used were a gift. To myself.

I turned the page to reveal my mother’s entries.

August 8, 1995

I finally got started to write. 2 weeks ago today July 25 I had surgery removing my left breast—let’s go back to June 26 at doctor’s for annual check-up. Whole world changed. Found lump in my breast and she explained it was very suspicious and she made appointment for many tests. She asked how I was? I said, “You tell me.” Things moving very fast now and surgery is in a few days. She said I was taking it very calmly. It was then I realized the same calm (my guardian angel?) that I got when Bob’s diagnosis was revealed. She said about steps I’d go through anger, denial, etc. I had remembered this from Bob’s experience, too, and left it in God’s hands. With my doctor’s warning and God’s guidance, I was calm.

There it was. That calm that enveloped her in that moment remained until her end. That’s what I remember most about that long-ago time, and what I craved to feel now. With her few simple words, that’s what she was providing. When was the last time I had put God first? My daughter, my obligations to family and friends, deadlines and commitments, busyness of life — that’s what fueled my days. But heeding this guidance from heaven, that’s what was needed here for me right now. Her journal continued to describe the logistics of the next few weeks, the appointments and tests, and her continual reminder to herself of her “heavenly guidance.”

Told my kids and what a shock it was for them. They are trying to take it in stride, I can see, but I’m sure they remember this happening with their Dad nine years ago. At this time I prepare myself for the worst. If it was my time, I had lived so much longer than Bob, had raised four children who were well-established, had seven grandchildren and I had a lot to be thankful for. I’m not afraid to die, because of all the people I love who have gone before me. Very conscious of suffering I might go through, but also know that God wouldn’t give me anything I couldn’t handle.

And that was it. A few paragraphs that, in this cellar on this day so many years after she wrote them, felt to me as though she was holding my hand. I sat quietly with her words, feeling reminded of my own gifts. I, too, loved my life and felt grateful. I calmly looked down to read the short final passage, in my own handwriting:

Thank you for living as long as you did. Thank you for loving as well as you did. Thank you for teaching all that you did. Thank you.

A heavenly conversation with my mother. A message of comfort, delivered to myself through the years. My mother had spoken to me, at my own long-ago behest, and her voice was never more clear.

And just then the phone rang and I turned to look calmly in its direction. I was surrounded by angels and I felt strong.

~Sandy Kelly

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