Sometimes, I sort things out with my pen. And although the world feels strangely silent right now, I want to talk about the song, and how it rang out from the hush.
(I tremble as I type.)
This summer, I spent extra time with my step-mom, Carol. We go way back.
In fact, we go back 38 years or more, because that’s how long ago Carol and my dad got married and brought a rag-tag bunch of us together and started fighting for them to become a family. They fought hard, and no-one fought harder than she did.
One sunny day in July, Carol and I were having lunch at our favorite spot, and she became quite dizzy. The kind employees there knew us well, and they surrounded her, getting her water, asking how they could help.
(They were angels.)
Some of them sat with her, and some of them stood, and I steadied myself on the back of her chair and did what I sometimes do: I just talked to lighten the mood and pass the time. I was giving her time to sip and to recover, and I could see the worry on the faces around me.
I told stories, and they were funny stories of experiences with Carol. We laughed and she laughed and she slowly recovered, and we went on our way. But in the next week, I thought about those stories, and I had a new revelation.
(All of my stories are about her.)
When I say that, I mean no disrespect to my biological mother, who died in 1985, but fell ill in 1961. In many ways, she was unable to mother from my beginning, but of course, I loved her.
I’ve known for years that Carol was God’s gift to this mostly-motherless child, but this revelation was different.
(I struggle to explain in the stillness, but almost all of my stories are about her.)
Carol and I didn’t exactly start out well, because I was a confused mess, and that’s being generous, but long ago we melted into each other’s arms and we forgave and we accepted each other for what we were: mother and daughter. And I changed and became an almost totally new person. And she changed too, I think.
(This is just a tiny slice of the bigger story, which is, as always, a God one.)
This summer, I got to do ordinary things for my step-mom, which was an honor. But it was hard, and I didn’t want to do it, because of the pain.
(It hurt brutally to see her unwell.)
But years ago, I accepted that the hard is what makes it great, and although I hate pain, that line from a Tom Hanks movie helped me get up off the shower floor after my sister’s suicide and go on living. And my pastor recently reminded me that sometimes it’s supposed to be hard, and I needed to hear it.
Carol died last week. In fact, we just buried her a few, short days ago. And during her final demise, this Ed Sheeran song rose out the the dust like petals rising into the fall breeze and swirling away.
I loved the song, and I hated it, and its haunting melody floated above the room filled with flowers at her funeral. I played it on repeat in my driveway one night…the night I came home from the vigil at the end, went inside and hit play on T Swift’s new stuff and drug down the cooking liqueur to see how much it would take, and I don’t drink.
(It didn’t take much.)
But that night, the sweet, thick liquid that I usually make holiday chocolate mousse with, and that I had to ice and water down to swallow, served as medicine, and I danced with attitude and cried and tried to block the song out.
But the song wouldn’t be silenced, and I made my way upstairs, the last one to bed, and now, it is something I play on occasion to smile and to remember and to be thankful. And yes, of course, to cry.
(The song has meaning for me on so many levels.)
That’s a tidbit our family’s story, and there’s so much more, about how God was sweet through it all, and harsh when I needed a Job-style dressing down, and so many things, but how in the end, He was what he Is.
(He was faithful.)
I’ll stop now and let you listen to the song.
Goodbye, my sweet Carol. You were an angel in the shape of my mom. You forgave me when I didn’t deserve it and you loved me like I was your own.
And I’ll miss you.