I don’t write to be famous, I don’t write to be known, I write because I am and I want to be read. How sad to fill a room with paintings no one sees or play music no one hears. Writing is talking without sound, singing without score and dancing without movement and yet, it is all of them. It is a solitary art conjured from thought and expressed by the need to communicate.

HEAD SLAPS, SPEED BUMPS and LIGHTBULBS, one woman's WTF, oops and ah-ha moments of life.

They were published once, and as every writer knows, once is not enough.

Friday, February 12, 2016

A God-nod divine mystery

My mother, a good Catholic girl, married a Methodist. Because her mother, a very good Polish Catholic girl married a Pennsylvania Dutch WWI veteran, the little-rebel in both of them illustrated just how much they loved their husbands. Love overcame any fear they might have had for them, or their children, of never making it to heaven. That’s why, for my brother and me, the whole steeped in sin and served up as serious religious thing, was relaxed a lot.

My brother and I attended my father’s boyhood Methodist church. I attended, he skipped.  I got gold stars on my chart for learning Bible verses, he spent his offering money on cigarettes at the Corner Store across the Street from the rectory.

We were dropped off and picked up two hours later. My mom stayed home to cook breakfast, or so we thought. I later learned that Sunday morning was the only private-time my parents had to spend together. I still find it amusing, we went to church so they could ruffle the sheets.

As my parents aged I noticed a growing distance between them regarding religion. My dad was a discreet believer, never seeking to proselytize away my mom’s growing cynicism concerning a higher power. It wasn’t as if they sat around talking about religion but when the subject of heaven, hell, or the almighty came up, my mother either went quiet or expressed a kind of distain for formalized faith. As the years piled on that distain took on a down-right disbelief in God and Christ.
Her sermon: “Heaven and hell is lived right here on earth while we’re alive. When you are dead, you’re dead. That’s it. No eternity, no meeting deceased relatives and friends, no angels, no heavenly grace. Life now is what you get.”

My mother didn’t go around spouting her pessimistic view regarding that which comforts many, we just knew faith wasn’t her thing. That’s why, when my father had a stroke and eventually died, that she had only us to lean on for comfort, was not enough.

After my father’s death, my strong minded, my way or the highway mom, became an empty husk of a woman we did not recognize. Depressed and lonely was understandable; losing the person you’ve been married to for over 62 years does that to the partner left behind. Once in a while a glimmer of her old self would rise to the surface for a few minutes when my daughters and I visited, but soon she’d slip back and wallow in that quiet empty place that had become her life without my father.

At the time I believed that if she had the religion of her childhood or the one she wanted us to embrace as children, to lean on, perhaps the transition to life without my father would have been a bit more bearable.  With no one in the dark to talk to, no God and Christ to share and ease her suffering during her long nights alone, she was lost. Without the spirit of my dead-dad to hear her anguish and sooth her aching heart, eternity was untouchable. Even the thought of my always patient father, waiting on the other side for when it was her time to go, could not bring her comfort, “When you are gone, you’re gone.” She believed herself alone without divine presence.

But what my mother did not realize, and fought against to recognize, she was not alone. Every word, every plea, every silent word was heard. Comfort was at her hearts door even though she didn’t let it in.

On the pivotal night which began her own two week journey to the end, she got up to use the bathroom at 3am…fell and broke her hip…banged on the wall to wake my brother in an upstairs apartment…was rushed to the hospital…lay strapped to a backboard for two and half hours in the hallway of the emergency room…sent to surgery to repair her broken hip…placed in a nursing home for rehab…entered hospice.

On the night she fell I raced to the hospital and was taken to a section of a hallway adjacent to the nurses’ station. A metal framed fabric screen cordoned off my mother from the rest of the emergency room’s world of action. As I approached I could see my brother’s feet below the screen. He was standing inside the cramped made-up room, next to the gurney my mother lay on.
“All of the examining rooms are full,” he said.

“Is she asleep?” I asked.

“No, I am not. How could I be, I’m strapped to a surf board.”

“It’s a backboard mom.”

“I know what it is, I was making a God-damn joke. Your father would have laughed.”

We did not.

“My eighty-three year old diabetic, cancer ridden mother, remained strapped to that backboard, with a broken hip, in that hallway, for two and half hours. My mother, who could spout profanity, like a fifth grader spouts times tables, my mother, who could spew insults like a baby pukes milk, lay composed and quiet, as if the fiberglass torture device she lay on, were a blow-up beach raft gently drifting on the surface of Long Island Sound.

“I’m not going to make it.” She whispered to me. Damn her. She was always right.

Once my mother was gone I found comfort in knowing that her suffering without my father was over. To me they were together again, for eternity. Though she believed, “when you are dead, you’re dead,” I was amused by God’s nod and divine sense of humor.

My mother the lapsed Catholic girl, the woman who did not believe in heaven or hell, the person who ceased to give God or Christ a second thought, let alone a first one, died on Easter Sunday. That she would ascend to heaven on the same day as the resurrection of God’s son proves that always, and I mean always, God gets the last laugh and the final, I told you so.


  1. Carolynn, wow! What a powerful and moving post. Your mother was such an unusual and strong woman. Interesting that she and your dad made different choices regarding religion and faith. In a way, it enabled you to make your own choices as well.

    That's amazing that she died on Easter Sunday. Love had her. And it was there all along.

    P.S. Look at your last line again. There might be a hidden message there, or a divine chuckle. ;-)

    1. Thank you Lilac. God is smiling. No gold star on my chart over that one.

  2. Carolynn, you deserve all the stars in the world! <3

  3. This is one of the bests posts you've ever written. It's so good, I want to print it off and let my Mom read it. She and my Dad had almost 60 years. She's Catholic, he was Presbyterian. She's more of the believer, whereas he had not entered a church is close to 50 years when he did. But, he was like your Dad in that he was a gentle, quiet soul, whereas Mom is/was quite feisty.

    Loved this.

  4. Dang it. I can't edit my comment, but my sentence is supposed to read...he had not entered a church in close to 50 years when he died.