Certain stories of motherhood fixate their eyes on us until we lend them a voice.
Sometimes, while lying in bed, they poke at me – insisting they must show me what they have learned; stories that display a twinkling grin positioned in the center of an experienced and reassuring smile. Until I give them attention, they stare relentlessly. Slipping away from my lover with a gentle kiss, I slide out of bed and pull on my robe; eager to give them the honor they rightly deserve.
I click on the dim-lit, paper lantern that hangs above my writing space. I sit. Exhale. Here I am. I am committed to hearing you, my dear stories; I am interested in listening and understanding that which you have to say. Yes, of course I would love to sleep, sleeping is divine. However, when you rouse me, I do not take for granted the message that is praying to be freed. So, what do you have for me today?
Oh…that story. Yes, I remember now; let’s see what emerges from the loosening:
I used to play a hand-held, electronic solitaire game, every night while living in the hospital. It was the only thing that would allow me to fall sleep. The beeps and tweets would drown out the sounds of my daughters monitors, distracting my usual thoughts of all things creative and steering them towards all things linear. The creative was not doing well, you see, she was simply doing her best to survive the reality of our circumstance.
Logic and reason took center stage during those tough months; my pen dry; paper untouched, and my heart heavily guarded. Attempting to force out one wrong word would open wide the floodgates. So, naturally, we were very controlling as to when and with whom those vulnerable conditions were allowed to be exposed.
But numbers? I had always hated numbers. Never was any good at math and I did not believe in forcing a love for something that I honestly had no intentions on wanting to learn to love in the first place. But, as a mother sleeping on a blow up mattress in a hospital room, alongside her daughter who was fighting for her life, numbers were my safest companions. I would play until my arms could no longer hold up the silly machine. The half-a-second I would drift off, my limbs would collapse, sending it crashing onto my forehead. That was the signal it was time to surrender the day.
Digital sounds of victory would chime when I actually won a round and it filled me with a great sense of accomplishment. Amidst such a helpless and defenseless circumstance, a mother needed to feel some sort of immediate gratification of achievement. The Queens mona-lisa smiles a front the face cards nodded in approval of my laborious efforts. I would smile back in receipt of their applause.
Then, the sun would rise. I was the first to know, as I rarely closed the blinds. I did not want to miss the first glimpse of hope that crested on the horizon of each waking day. The electronic solitaire game would be found positioned under my pillow, just in case I woke in the night and needed assistance falling back asleep.
But the words, those silly little letters that I loved to indulge in, remained distant and cautious. My newest journal remained blank in the drawer by my daughter’s bed, although, her journal was written in each and every day. Her written words were lifelines; giving her permission to interrogate the nonsense that seemed to properly depict this whole cancer thing.
Looking back, I like to believe that I set my ink down so she could pick it up.
She did not only take it up, but she danced with the pen for several months, writing for herself a whimsical story of hope. My love for words came alongside her, infusing in her a fresh outlet; inviting her to hop in and take a ride on a healing voyage. Her journey of writing ended up being a rightly prescribed dose of joy; enough to adequately tolerate the painful, but necessary, treatment.
This very same ink that had dried up around me, was now a river of life for her.
I knew the moment it was time for me to start writing again. Surges of gratitude would overwhelm me and thankfulness began to drip over many pages. We had overcome. There was the rush of survival; healing of bodies and rejoining of family. An abundance of psalms cascaded out from my fingertips as I returned this ink of life as a sacrifice of praise to the One who had sustained us.
These are the memories of mothering we must commemorate; where an inhale becomes another’s exhale; where a recession becomes another’s procession. These are the moments of mothering that remind us of a job well done; made especially for the days that leave us feeling defeated.
These are the stories we must continue to breathe into remembrance; our testimonies of faithfulness; these gospels of motherhood. Stories written on scrolls so they are easily understood; posting them on the door frames of our hearts, and teaching them to our children when we walk with them on the road.
For all the women who inhale so another can exhale,
who put down so another can pick up,
who recede so another can proceed,
Happy Mothers Day, Matriarch.