(A great example of Mom's leaning in. This is moment shared during a visit with cousin Karen.)
As I remember my Mom on this Mother’s day, one of the first images is how she was always leaning in.
It wasn’t that she wasn't able to hear or see (although those things gradually did happen for her later in her life). Instead as I grew up and watched this practice of hers over and over, gradually I came to understand that Mom deeply loved the folks around her. Her leaning in was her way of literally drawing folks closer.
It wasn't because she couldn't hear, it was because she wanted to hear more. It wasn't because she couldn't see, it wasn't that at all. Instead she wanted to see everything that she could possibly see - she wanted to see what was in the face, in the flower or on the picture. Mom was interested in what was around her.
And in this lesson alone she taught me well about life. And with Barbara Ann, there were so many lessons…
Mom died of lung cancer in October of 2005. When she entered hospice, she told us that she wanted to stay in her newly claimed home here Atlanta surrounded by her family. And so our family helped that happen. Her hospital bed was set up in the living room. She was up and in her courtyard garden the day before she died. Mom did her best to live into her death.
This October will mark 10 years since her death. In so many ways that is just plain wrong. Without her leaning in - for everything and everyone who came into her life -- without that leaning in, there continues to be a tender, missing-place in my heart. My mom continues to be present with me, all the time. Even now when something amazing happens with the boys, I want to pick up the phone and call her. And sometimes that feels so real to me that I forget she’s not living a mile away in Decatur.
One of the chapters from my new book, Grief and the Psalms: Companioning the Moon for 29 Days is about Mom’s leaning in and embracing her three girls. The verse used for this chapter is from Psalm 23, “Surely goodness of mercy shall follow me…”
Not long ago I sat on our front porch swing here in Decatur and watched a thunderstorm blow in. Sitting there on my porch I remembered how Mom had loved watching storms just like that one when we were little. She would somehow gather us all in, holding my two sisters and me on the couch on our screened porch. The four of us would watch the storm blow in, somehow all held snuggly together. Often there was a fierce wind with torrential downpours. We could see the sky suddenly bright with lightening. I don’t remember her words, or if she spoke at all. I just remember being wrapped up in her arms and feeling so very safe in the midst of such noise and smacks of light.
As I continue to lean into the comfort and reassurance of this psalm, I have a body memory of sitting on our front porch, being held by Mom. It’s not really logical in the midst of a great storm to feel safe. While some might say, “take cover,” here’s the thing that was true for me: I was already securely resting in the safest place I knew. I was being held and loved in my mother’s arms. Surely goodness and mercy ~ just four words. More than enough to encourage and comfort me. More than enough to bring me home again.
Working in Family Experience at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Lesley is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. A Candler School of Theology graduate, Lesley has just published her second book, Grief and the Psalms: Companioning the Moon for 29 Days (available on this website). She and her partner, Linda Ellis are raising their two sons, Brogan and Sam in Decatur, GA.