Wednesday, July 20, 2005

A Mother's Passing--Sunday, July 20, 2003

(The previous post is here.) We were still many miles from Erie, and I still had to drive. So drive I did. Soon I fell into a pattern. I would think about my mother and cry to myself. Then, to distract myself, I would listen to a CD. Eventually I would become so exhausted that I would get off at an exit, walk around, buy some more coffee, and generally try to rest a bit. Then we would get back on the road and I would feel guilty for trying to distract myself. And so I would cry until I couldn’t stand it. Then I would put in a CD… It was a very long night. I cried all the way to Erie. At last, we arrived in Erie. I pulled up in front of the house and I almost lost it. My parents’ house was surrounded by a large garden filled with flowers that my mother had tended. She loved flowers. Just the sight of all those flowers brought the reality of Mom’s death crashing in on me. We went inside, and I found my father. Sitting in the living room together, I fell apart. Here I had been pushing myself so that I could be a support to my father, and here he was supporting me. I collapsed. I couldn’t think; I couldn’t make any sort of decision at all. All I could think about was how much I missed my mother. I found myself wandering in her garden outside or passing through the back porch, which was her work area, just sobbing and hugging myself. I told Crystal that she could take over and tell me what to do. I had completely come apart. Crystal ushered me to the car. Crystal drove us to Tom and Elizabeth’s house. Crystal put me to bed. And there, for five blessed hours, I slept. That evening, the entire family gathered for dinner at my father’s house. All five children were there, as well as their spouses and all the grandchildren. Mom’s mother (Grandma Anderson) was there. My mother’s sister and her husband (Aunt Laurie and Uncle Don) had driven up from Pittsburgh and were with us. My dad’s father (Grandpa Ben-Ezra) had come up from New Jersey, along with Dad’s siblings and their spouses (Uncle Glenn and Aunt Virginia, and Aunt Sue and Uncle Bob). The entire family had gathered together. At dinner, my father laid out the plans for us. There would be no public viewing. Instead, on Monday, there would be an informal viewing for family only. The funeral would be on Tuesday at the church building. Afterwards there would be a meal. There would be no elaborate flower arrangements, just a single rose on the casket. And then my father broke down and cried. My mother had loved roses especially, and he had often bought her roses. Now this would be the last one. That night, Crystal went to bed very early. She was exhausted and needed the sleep. So, Gabrielle and I took the children for a drive. We wanted to get the children out for a while so that Crystal could sleep, but we also needed to talk. You need to understand that Gabrielle is 17 and is the last child remaining at home. She graduated this year and had determined to pursue being a homemaker under my mother’s tutelage. And now, suddenly, she has found herself as the lady of the house. She needed encouragement. For that matter, so did I. We talked. We took turns crying. It helped. Eventually we went back to my father’s house and got the children settled for bed. Then I started to take Gabrielle over to my brother Jonathan’s house, where she was planning on staying. But instead, she decided to come back and stay with me. The reasons why need some explaining. Earlier in the day on Saturday, Jay had been cleaning out his garage and discovered a copy of “The Jesus Album” by Rich Mullins and a Ragamuffin Band. They had lost this copy a while ago and had, in fact, already purchased a replacement for it. So he gave this old copy to me. This became another obvious demonstration of God’s providing for our family. In past journal entries, I have talked about Rich Mullins. I mentioned how he died suddenly in the fall of 1997 in an automobile accident. “The Jesus Album” was the project that he was working on when he died. Nine days before his death, he recorded a demo tape for the album. After he died, his band put together the record and was able to have it produced. “The Jesus Album” is sold with two CDs. One is the album itself and the other is the demo tape. The first song on the demo CD is called “Hard to Get”. This has become the song that God gave me for this time of my life.
Hard to Get You who live in heaven—hear the prayers of those of us who live on earth Who are afraid of being left by those we love and Who get hardened by the hurt Do You remember when You lived down here where we all scrape To find the faith to ask for daily bread Did You forget about us after You had flown away While I memorized every word You said Still I’m so scared I’m holding my breath While You’re up there just playing hard to get You who live in radiance—hear the prayers of those of us who live in skin We have a love that’s not as patient as Yours was— But we do love now and then Did You ever know loneliness—did You ever know need Do You remember just how long a night can get When You are barely holding on and Your friends fall asleep And don’t see the blood that’s running in Your sweat Will those who mourn be left uncomforted While You’re up there just playing hard to get I know You bore our sorrows I know You feel our pain I know that it would not hurt any less even if it could be explained I know that I am only lashing out at the One Who loves me most And after I have figured this, somehow all I really need to know is if You who live in eternity hear the prayers of those of us who live in time We can’t see what’s ahead and we cannot get free of what we’ve left behind I’m reeling from these voices that keep screaming in my ears All these words of shame and doubt, blame and regret I can’t see how You’re leading me unless You’ve lead me here Where I’m lost enough to let myself be led And so, You’ve been here all along I guess It’s just Your ways and You are just plain hard to get
Something that God has been teaching me through this dark valley in my life is the willingness to submit to His will. It’s not that somehow He turned His back for a moment and then my mother died. No, if anything, the manner of her death makes it abundantly clear that He had chosen to bring her home. He has not seen fit to explain to me all the details of why He chose to do so, but He doesn’t have to. He is God, not me, and so it is not my place to demand explanations. And, as the song says, my grief would not be less, even if I knew all the reasons that God had for His decision. Rather, it is my place to yield to His plan, because I know that His plan is good. And not just “good” in an abstract way, but good for me. And His plan is also good for my mother. But still, it hurts. And the song speaks that for me as well. I have come to the point of understanding that part of the purpose of an artist is to speak the words that someone else would say, if only that person knew what those words were. In this song, Rich Mullins has expressed my own heart’s cry. And so, as I started to take Gabrielle to Jonathan’s house, I shared this song with her. I only got a few blocks away before I had to pull over because I was crying so hard. My sister and I held each other and cried and cried while the song played. And then she decided to stay at my father’s house. She knew that everyone was asleep and she did not think that any of us should have to be alone. I was grateful. Very grateful. And so we sat on the front porch, late at night, eating cold pizza and talking. As the night wore on, we began to laugh. In part it was exhaustion, but in part it was the mascot on the pizza box. We had purchased the pizza from Little Caesar’s, which uses a Roman-looking guy in a toga as their mascot. As Gabrielle and I were talking, we both realized that, right in the center of the pizza box, where the graphic design focused all the attention, was a patch of chest hair poking out of the toga. It was a horrifying sight. We tried to cover it with a napkin, but the wind kept pushing it off. Finally, we both agreed to head to bed, as we had been traumatized by the sight of chest hair for too long. As Gabrielle has noted many times, “Everyone needs more clothes.” It was a helpful way to end the night. Ecclesiastes 3 notes that there is a time to mourn and a time to laugh. Sometimes these times are divided by minutes and not by days. God knew that we would not be able to sleep if we were exhausted by weeping. So He let us be exhausted by laughter. Truly, God grants sleep to the ones that He loves. (The next post is here.)


Blogger Adiel said...

I hadn't understood this song before when you shared it with me, but I get it now.
It has been amazing to see the ways God has changed us during these past two years. There is not a doubt in my mind that this was the best thing to happen to us. But, man, it hurts.

7/20/2005 06:12:00 PM  

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