Wearing Heavy Boots

A post about grieving, originally published 2/22/13. 

Life has been different lately.

Seven-and-a-half weeks ago, my mother passed away. Really hard to even say that, much less write it. I hate that this happened. It’s actually been rather debilitating. I am, however, finally beginning to accept that she really is gone.

It’s been hard. She and I lived together almost my entire life. And, we were close. We weren’t the ‘best friends’ kind of Mom and Daughter, so we weren’t close like that. It was more like she was my hero. As I have passed these weeks since she has been gone, I’ve realized how often my decisions were all about pleasing her. Will Mother like this? Her satisfaction, her happiness, her contentment, her needs being met—this was a primary focus of my life.

Now, that she is not here to please, I’ve been pretty unmotivated. It’s been hard. I’ve done better the past week (obviously, because I am blogging), but it’s been a slow process.

Well, maybe not that slow. I mean, it’s not even been two months, you know? Seriously. Should I be expected to recover from that kind of loss in just a few weeks? I don’t know. I do keep wondering, though, how she would be handling this—or, what she would say if she was here, watching me. What if Doug had died first, and she was here watching me mourn his loss by wasting away my life doing nothing? I think she would have gotten pretty irritated at me.

So, I am trying to balance these things. I do wish someone could tell me how long it takes to move on. I am kind of legalistic that way. I follow instructions well. But, there don’t seem to be rules for this kind of thing. I googled it, and just found a lot of nothing. Basically, it can take forever to recover. Do I have forever?

Doug reminded me of something I said after I found out I had cancer. I talked about how much I wanted to be a faithful steward of the time the Lord had given me, and how much it grieved me to think that if I died in surgery and all I’d have to show for myself was what I had done up until then, that I would have been disappointed in what I would have to offer the Lord when I met Him face to face. It’s kind of hard to regain that kind of passion, once you lose it—or lay it down at the alter of self-indulgence.

And, that’s what I am beginning to fear, that I am becoming self-indulgent in my grief, and I hate that thought. Self-indulgence is such a sinful thing.

I do excuse myself a bit, in that caring for my Mother was my occupation for several years, and this past year it was a 24/7 job. So, I have lost more than just my Mother; I have lost a big part of my identity. You know what I mean? I was a caregiver. That became my job description. I woke up everyday with a Mother-centered purpose. I had things I had to do—someone depending on me to do them. Life and death dependence. And, now? Not so much. This is kind of challenging. A lot challenging.

Yet, I think of her and I remember her life, and I know she would be very displeased with some of my choices these past two months. I mean, seven-and-a-half weeks. She would appreciate my missing her, but then she would say, “Stop crying for me! I’m with Jesus. I’m with my friends. I’m having a great time! And, I have no pain. I don’t have to get shots, or take pills. I’m dancing with Jesus, Caroline. I’m OK! You’re the one you should be crying for right now. Look at you, wasting those two good legs and that strong mind and that lovely home. Get busy. Make me proud!”

It’s so hard to let go. To let go of grief. To let go of her. To let go of that life. I had no idea what her death would mean. When she died, I was just so relieved her suffering was over. This is still the hardest memory, remembering the pain in her face, the fear in her eyes. I still can’t bear the thought without so much pain and sadness. I hate how much she suffered. The last month was the very worst. It was so hard to know how hard it was for her—and I didn’t even really know. Just how miserable was she? My heart aches from the thought. I just want to comfort her and relieve that pain—

This is the hardest thing.

I couldn’t relieve her suffering. I couldn’t do anything for her, to make it better. I tried, but who knows if it really helped? And, I can’t stop thinking of all the things I could have done, or maybe, should have done. This is hard. The Lord is good, though. He reminds me each time of all the other times she recovered. She didn’t get better, because I did everything right. Her life was never really in my hands; it was always in His. In the end, her death was more merciful than it might have been any other time. I would have preferred it go differently, but is there a better way to die? Is death ever easy?

So, I am challenged. Very challenged. I need to move on, but these are such heavy boots. The sadness is still so great. Why aren’t I rejoicing in her triumph over sickness and eternal death? I seem to prefer feeling sorry for myself, which I disrespect so much. I don’t want to be that kind of person. I don’t want to be the hostess of my own personal pity party. I want to remember my Mother well. I want to honor her life. I want to celebrate her victory.

I have been reading a book called “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer. I began the book a long time ago, but picked it up in earnest after Mother died. It is the story of a boy whose father dies on 9/11. This author seems to understand grief and sadness very well.

“I didn’t understand why I needed help, because it seemed to me that you should wear heavy boots when your dad dies, and if you aren’t wearing heavy boots, then you need help.”

The sun will be down soon. I am trying to do things I couldn’t do before, and walking each day is one of them. So, I need to go.

You know, when the freezing cold wind hits my face, and I keep walking, I know there is a little bit of the best of my Mother in me. I want to build on that.


This is fiction, inspired by my Father and based on both his and my Mother’s accounts of his decision to answer the call to ministry, instead going to law school.  

He buried his hands into the decomposing leaves and tried to raise himself up. How long had he been there? His knees were sunken into the soft earth; the air was cooler now.  Instead of the sun beating down on his head, he felt the shadows of the trees on his back. It must be dinner time, he thought. Today he would end his fast. It was time. His mother was concerned for him. She didn’t understand; she just wanted him to eat.

He tried to lift himself, again. He was weak. He realized he had not brought a canteen with him—it was definitely time to go.

Yet, he didn’t want to leave this place. He didn’t want to open his eyes. He just wanted to rest in this divine peace as long as possible. Here in these woods he was alone with God, alone in His presence. It was a great luxury he didn’t want to squander.

However, there was work to be done, and he was already beginning to get a vision of what God had in store. His spirit was suddenly filled with an indescribable joy, and before his legs could protest, he was on his feet. He was excited—but not quite stable. He stumbled as he took his first step and steadied himself against a tree. Oh, how his former sparring partners would mock him, if they could see him now. “When I am weak, He is strong,” he laughed. “Amen!” 

Ignacio dusted off his pant legs, and ignored the damp stains on the knees—he had long ago learned how to take those out. One could not stand in the pulpit with dirty knees.

He reached down for his Bible and began the walk back to campus, so grateful and so eager. He could tell his load was lighter now, and he began to walk faster; his gait growing stronger with each step. Buried in those woods was everything he’d imagined his life would be—every ambition, every worldly aspiration, and every dream—and he was leaving it all behind. He was free now, to do what God had called him to do. He knew it wasn’t going to be easy—his mother was not going to take the news well. “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother…he cannot be My disciple.” Christ’s words filled his thoughts. God knows I don’t hate them, but I cannot forsake You for them. 

A flash of the setting sun hit him in the face as he reached the edge of the woods, and his hand quickly shielded his eyes. He stood there for a moment, just enjoying the glorious view and fresh air. His future was before him, and it was bright.

About Maria

A couple days ago I posted about Maria Montessori-inspired games I had made for my granddaughter. Michel Fauquet, one of my dear, blogging friends, shared a quote of her’s with me:

“The action comes ahead of the thought,
and the thought comes from the action.”

Maria Montessori (1870-1952)

I really liked that quote, because it seemed to apply to what I have witnessed with Lucy. I wanted to share this one, too:

“Do not tell them how to do it.
Show the how to do it and do not say a word.
If you tell them, they will watch your lips move.
If you show them, they will want to do it themselves.”
Maria Montessori (1870-1952)

That quote really spoke to me. We always hear, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Yet, children really only do what they see. They copy us. It’s very interesting, and very compelling.  It also rings true with my play times with Lucy. One of her games is putting beads on pipe cleaners. She watched with such intensity as I did it, and then did it herself. We played silently for several minutes. Silently! I was in awe.

Today, we played with Play-Doh. I was telling her to squish it, but she didn’t quite get it. Then, I squished it for her, and she smiled. She got it. We sat in near silence. I rolled the Play-Doh into a ball, and she would squish it. (By the way, Lucy is 22-months-old.)

Really interesting. I’m enjoying all that Lucy is teaching me.

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