Tag Archives: my mom

Lessons from a Mountaintop Experience

Death in the Family

My grandmother died March 30, 2003. It was painful and breathtaking. And then…

Maybe ten days later, my father was rushed to the ER. Blood clots were killing him. By the time I got to the hospital, dad’s heart had stopped and he’d been resuscitated twice.

The doctor working with him asked if we wanted to sign DNR papers. I didn’t want that and I was certain my mom didn’t, but she was so distraught she couldn’t make the decision.

My dad died twice more and was revived without having to crack his chest, before my mom made her decision. In fact, she never made the decision.

Continue reading Lessons from a Mountaintop Experience

Yesterday

It was my parents’ anniversary.
Fifty-one years ago
they exchanged vows;
Two anniversaries now
without daddy here to count them.

I meant to ask my mom
what does the count
feel like without him.
But it sounds in my head
a little too morose even for me.
Even though, to help me understand,
she’d probably
try to
find the words to say her grief.
Hoping I’m sure that naming it
could somehow put her in control of it.

It’s the poet in me
that is willing
eager even, to sit with a pain
pulling it apart to know it.

Protecting myself
I get rational
logical, my dad would say
reflecting on all the times
when my breath catches
as though he was newly gone from me.

Counting occasions
as the blessings I had
each one signifies, in its turn
my dad’s not here anymore;

Mine are enough anniversaries
to wade through missing him.
For their wedding, I’ll leave it
to my imagination.

©2009 by Shari Lynne Smothers
anniversary-photo2

Genes

I looked at a random
new-born baby on TV
held by her mother.
From the other room
I heard my mom’s voice,
“That baby looks
just like her mother.”

I never could see that much
in the faces of new-borns
wrinkled and otherwise nondescript
even in my family.
Maybe my eyes were never
quite trained to it
and remain as yet
undeveloped.

My mom tells the story
that when my dad’s mom
first laid eyes on me
she said ‘I got one.’

I still wonder
how she saw it that day
that I’d grow to have her face
as mine.
But she was right
and so pronounced is our likeness
until all the family
knows who I’m from.

©2009 by Shari Lynne Smothers

Graces Like Mercies

The Hard Parts

Graceful Birds

I was preparing to leave my dad’s hospital room. He was very sick with cancer and other complications. He had suffered and recovered from setbacks that required surgeries, but he couldn’t seem to shake everything. Blood clots were his problem four years earlier and he still was plagued with them. We saw him through so much, but he was leaving us.

This day was a peculiarly gentle, warm day nearing fall. It had rained and then the sun came beaming out. It hurt every time leaving my dad in the hospital because I knew how much he hated being there. It didn’t matter that he was understanding about my leaving, he complained enough for me to understand that his heart wasn’t in that. And I understood that because I knew his personality. Still, I had to keep things in perspective so that I could just keep going. This particular day, dad was not ready for me to leave, and asked for different things “before you leave.”

Light in the Middle Parts

I stayed a little longer and did a few more things for him and just sat awhile longer. I told him that I’d return tomorrow, or maybe even pass back after I finished my errands. His spirits lifted and I was content that he was satisfied. As I left the hospital, I started to feel a little lighter because with just a little more time, dad was better prepared to be without family for the evening. Driving down the street the day was shimmering and such a feeling came over me. It was a promise I could almost hear. I called my mom, I just couldn’t wait to get to her house. I told her that things were about to change for us all. Mom asked me, “Like what? What do you mean?” “I don’t know really. That’s all I got.” She said okay and that she felt that way too.

In the weeks that passed, dad started to show some improvement. And he did get a little better—enough to get home. I got some good job offers. My youngest brother came to town to see my dad before he got really sick. My family and friends kept my mind occupied and life just felt tolerable with good stuff in the middle. I was laughing and talking and appreciating good things that were coming my way, as I grieved the illness that had invaded my dad’s body.

I was talking to one friend and he asked my how I was doing. I told him I was well, and that made me pause because I didn’t know how I was well. It was amazing to me that in the face of my abject sorrow, I was still able to smile and laugh from my soul—I could still touch my joy.

Dad went back into the hospital a time or two and each time I went with him. When I could, I spent the whole day with him. We would talk about the things that I was working on, like my editing course, or learning HTML. Sometimes he would sleep, and he would apologize for not being a good host. It never mattered to me and I told him so. Sometimes we would both sleep. We just spent time at the hospital then at home. After a time, my daddy died at home.

Always Learning: Lessons are Everywhere

Looking back now over these 7 months since my dad died, and I try to track how we got through it. I wasn’t as “prepared” as I thought I’d be, and yet I survived. I appreciated all the good things that dad and I did for each other, and the time that we spent. It came to me one day when I was considering how it is that I survived:

There’s plenty of excitement in my days. Life has a way of showering down graces like mercies in difficult times. And I am drenched with reasons to be grateful.

It’s easy to be grateful for the good things that come my way, no matter how small. What was a deliberate practice years ago is now a habit of gratitude. The other part that helps me is searching for the meaning in difficult times. In my darkest times, I try not to get maudlin. But I do try to take a straight-on look at things; my goal is to take up some treasure from the muck. Writing them down helps to soothe me. The poem Life Lessons (at the end of the post, I Write for Me First) is from a sifting expedition; one that took me passed the why and straight to appreciation.

Death and why
don’t sit together in me for long.
It makes me feel too inept.
Because without exception,
I come back to accepting that
it happens
just
because.

Dillard University Reunion Class of 1958

Mother’s Day with Mom

This past Mother’s Day weekend, I met up with my mother in New Orleans, Louisiana. She was there to celebrate with her Dillard University graduating class, their 50th Reunion. It is a big deal to the University as it may be at other universities as well. And it was special to classmates. You see, their Dillard University class studied and lived and grew as a community. They were part of each others’ lives. Some had matriculated from as far back as grade school together. It was very special to me too, for different reasons.

Willie Dempsey sang at mom & dad's wedding A face I seem to know since forever

My mom introduced me to the man who sang at her and daddy’s wedding. She introduced me to a lady who was stunned by how much I look like my daddy. And Aromenta’s familiar face that was part of my growing up years.

I watched my mom enjoy herself. And I paid attention to her appreciation for the life she lived and how she lived it. Even though they didn’t keep in touch regularly, these friends seemed to delight in their time togetherr. Mom introduced me to one man, and I moved to shake his hand. He held out his arms and said, “Mackie’s daughter? I have to hug you.” People made it a point to tell me how highly they thought of my dad. There’s so much I took away from the two days that I spent with mom and her classmates, so much feeling and appreciating.

It seems I watch my mom a lot more closely since my dad died. And, I watched her spend time with her friends, talking and catching up before they go their separate ways. She and they seemed to take full advantage of the time that they had. No matter how often I watch them spend time with their friends, the fundamental lessons I take from them are lived out before my eyes. And my mom reinforced them once again:

  1. First, carry on
  2. Second, cherish my history
  3. Third, never underestimate the power of friendship

Helen & Roxy

Appreciating Where I’m From

My mom, Helen, is on the left
and her dear friend Roxy on the right.
They’re smiling together
posing for the photo,
chatting,
reveling in the moment.

I shot the picture
remembering Roxy dancing
in my parents’ bedroom on Annette Street.
She’d come by to see our new baby;
probably it was my brother Damon.

I remember how I was enthralled by her dancing.
I’d managed to stay in the room
as the grown-ups chatted.
Her energy filled the room
the hem of her mini skirt shimmied
her necklace almost touching it
swaying as she and my mom laughed
and shared girl talk and friendship.

Time has passed and geography separates them.
My daddy always nearby
is now passed away almost seven months.
What I see watching mom and her friends,
their expressions as they talk together
the bonds forged in their youth
is only more seasoned, a given,
unmoved by the distance between them.

It was a lovely day, warm with a nice breeze
blowing silently through the majestic oaks,
clear enough for my cameras to
capture what I wanted to keep.
My dad almost made it
but my mom’s still here to celebrate it.
In me is enough of both of them
to attend, appreciate and enjoy
the friendships they forged
and be back in time for work on Monday.
I was able to send pictures
and details to my family
who couldn’t be in attendance.
In all of this I am thankful.

And I continue.
Life is good with all that’s gone from me.
I’m grateful for all I have
and events and time and stuff left to do.
Whatever will be my future,
at these events, I glimpse insights of
parts and people that impacted my parents
who in turn shaped me.
I like knowing.

© 2008 by Shari Lynne Smothers