Thursday, December 29, 2011


My mom died in a stranger's bed. She slipped away peacefully on a painless wave of morphine as I sped toward her over the icy January roads between Texas and Oklahoma.

I was too late by hours, the letter I had written her forgiving her for everything arriving soon after her last breath.

I looked down at her in her coffin. Her hands so still, her mouth pulled down tight. The room smelled of roses, yellow as a sunrise and open to the sky. Roses my father had sent. Her favorite.

She died at the age of 46. Of cancer that ate at her lungs and body.

But she was gone long before that.

Why am I telling you this? I don't know. It's a story God has compelled me to share, stopping me in the midst of vacuuming to sit down and tell it.

She was beautiful. She could make any plant grow. She was mercurial, violent, and generous. She was a study in opposites, a study in what we now know is bi-polar.

She drank all of the time. She drank to tamp down her demon's voices, and to make her moods lie still for a time. But they came back with the sun and sobriety. So many years of mental anguish- and never a diagnosis of mental illness until she was nearly dead of cancer.

It's something I will never understand. Was God giving her a glimpse of what life should have been like- medicated and well? Was he giving me an idea of what she would have been like- or what she could have been? I've had to make peace with not knowing.

I have struggled with guilt all of my life. When I was 6, I was taken away from her- carried by a policeman into a waiting car while I watched the paramedice try to resusitate her. I kept screaming that she needed me. Now I think of the fact that she had taken enough pills to die. How much could she have possibly needed me?

I went back to her. And at 11, was taken away again. I don't remember much of these years, just holding a pillowcase filled with my dolls as I watched her in the doorway, pulling great clouts of hair from her head and crying.

I felt guilt, and anger, and fear until I went back to her at 15. That time when I left, I barely got out alive. She was hell bent on killing me in her drunken mental breakdown.

I tried. So many times. I went between anger and hope. I contacted her, and then withdrew.

And then she was dying. And she was well, all at the same time. A walking corpse with the ability to love me like I had never been.

Then she died.

I have spent hours wrestling with my guilt over what I COULD have done. I went to therapy, worked countless hours on getting in touch with the anger that blazed in me. Anger that was covering the guilt of a daughter who LOVED her mother, but didn't save her.

And it all came down to one moment. Holding my newborn daughter. Looking at the face of innocence and asking God if my mother ever felt this much love for me.

And hearing in the dark stillness- Yes.

Tears flowed, mixing with the milk from my breasts. Nourishing my daughter with both love and remembered grace as I continued to speak to God.

Father, I wanted to save her. I wanted to be ENOUGH. I wanted to be the reason she would save herself.

Nothing on this earth could have saved her. She was ruined for this world. Only the touch of my hand, here, in this place free from pain could save her.

Maybe if I was kinder...


Less selfish- I was always so selfish.


Maybe if I had stayed, all of those times.


Maybe if I had beleived in her more.


If I had only-

No. I am telling you no. Her life was as it should be. She died when I determined. She is healed now. Healed. Free. As you need to be. Nothing you did or could have done would have turned her face away from her own destruction. Her soul was ravaged by illness and sickness. Her healing was made whole the moment after she drew her last breath.

I could have held on.

To what?

For that I didn't have an answer. Because there had never been anything to hold on to.

The dog of guilt lies chained. I remind myself, have to remind myself, that I put these things away on that night. That no matter who I was, how much love I had to give, how much of my innocence was taken, she never could have changed her path. She was meant to live and die as she did. And although I don't know the reasons- I do know the outcome.

She is healed. She is free. And one day I will see her again.