At different points in my life, the loss of my mom feels glaringly obvious. It’s like major moments in my life—high school graduation, shows in college, college graduation, moving to Chicago, getting married, going to Israel—seem to stir up the muck on the bottom of my heart. Because in these moments, I can’t share them with my mom. If you've lost someone you love that much, or someone who's had such a big part in making you who you are, you can understand. This pregnancy is another one of those times. I can’t tell her the news, or ask her for help, or input, or find out how her labor or pregnancy was with me. For the most part, this hasn’t haunted me as much as I expected. And maybe it will. But lately I’ve had a nagging feeling that the mucky dull pain is starting to get stirred up a little.
My mom lost her own mom early and she used to tell me how much she missed her. One time she told me her mom's name was Dorothy. I started laughing, "HaHa!! Like the Wizard of Oz?!?" I bursted out. But she surprised me with her seriousness and said it wasn't nice to make fun of her mother's name. Once she began to cry and when I asked her what was wrong she said she missed her mother. I was only a child- maybe 7 or 8 and didn’t know what to do. It’s a weird thing to see grownups cry—especially someone as tough as my mom. Speechless, scared, I just crawled across her bed and hugged her while she cried. Maybe she found comfort in that. I hope so, but now that I know how deep the pain goes, sometimes the comfort can't ever reach it. I remember when I realized that everyone dies, and that she would die someday and I cried and hugged her tight and told her I didn't want her to die. I don't remember how the conversation went, but I know the fear lingered with me as a child.
When she died I felt surprised at first how much everyone can let you down, no exceptions. I started to think there were only two beings I could depend on-- myself and God. Then I realized I let myself down all the time. So that just leaves the one Being. But I also started to feel really strong. Like I could handle anything in the world and nothing could hurt me as bad as I'd already been hurt. Boys? Fights with girlfriends? Public humiliation? Bring it on. And that was somehow comforting. Then as my relationship with Danny grew and as this baby begins to grow, that comfort has slowly been slipping away, because I know that the price of loving them this much and so deeply means I could hurt like that again.
But aside from the fear of losing them, there is this fear that I may leave the little one behind the same way I felt left, and my mom felt left. What if it's a weird cycle that will continue through the generations? This unfortunate dead mom virus. What if it happens before she even knows me? What if I miss her high school graduation? Or her college shows? Or her wedding?
I dragged myself to church last week, and of course, the pastors talked about losing their moms. And it stirred up the muck. But it also gave me a focal point. The two readings were from Numbers 21:4-9 and John 3. Of course I have a love/hate relationship with the bible. But I loved it this day--because it had this great parallel. In Numbers, Moses and the Israelites were wandering around trying to get Home and the Israelites were doing their usual thing-- complaining about the food and the scenery, which I can totally relate to. And then it got worse when poisonous snakes started biting them and killing them. Moses hangs up this bronze snake and tells them they dont need to be afraid of death if they look at the snake. Basically, Moses was like, 'Hey, God said to keep your eyes on this snake and you won't die'. In the John 3 passage Jesus was still trying to get people to not be afraid of death. So he basically said, 'Keep your eyes on me'.
I know I'm not supposed to be afraid, but it's still a fight to keep it at bay. The comfort and strength I once felt knowing nothing could hurt me as bad as my mom's death is being replaced with something new-- faith, hope and a delight in the mystery of not knowing what's in store. I know that even if/when I make it to see my grandchildren, there will be plenty of pain before then--fights with my daughter, or seeing her hurt, or having to tell her that the world has really ugly parts- like poverty, hunger, hate. I dont know what's going to happen exactly, when I will die, or when the people I love the most will go, one of which is the size of an eggplant. I'm just trying to keep my eyes on the same Being that has gotten me this far, the same one that got my mom as far as she did, which wasn't far enough, but still pretty good because it got me here. And the eggplant. Instead of fear, I aim to believe in the best, but also trust that God will be with me even in the worst.