The Garden

It was the very first morning in over two weeks that I finally felt hope, the flavor of the day had entered back into my morning routine and I found that I could taste life once again as I rolled out of bed and into the beginning of a new day. The joy that was so much part of my everyday life was back, I was doing a little dance in my heart as I sat in my reading room taking in the moment and feeling the sun peak in through my front window, kissing me on the nose.

I will never forget this morning, as I experienced the promise of peace found by pressing into my pain and living in the moment. I have chosen to trust God with my future and allowed myself to hold tight to His truth rather then my feelings. Though I have felt lost, and hopeless the truth is I have never been more certain of where I am and where I am going and have never experienced so much hope in the middle of so much loss.

This particular morning with a renewed spirit, I chose to go visit the church and prayer garden I use to take my mother to every Thursday morning. It was our special time together, we would get coffee, talk about our past week, the things we wanted to work on and the things we were appreciative of and then head off to morning service. It became one of those days of the weeks that I looked forward to in anticipation, my faith grew as well as my relationship with my mother because of those Thursday morning dates.

Here I was, back at the church, ready to sit in the very pew I use to sit in with my mother and have a little one on one with God, as I was experiencing my loss, wrapped around my peace and embracing my grief. My heart was heavy with the memories of yesterday but so focused on today and what He was going to bring out of my mourning. My heart sank quickly as I reached for the doors of the church and gave a quick pull and realized that the doors were locked.

I was looking so forward to those quiet moments and felt such a let down when I could not get in, disappointment quickly tried to steal the joy that had come to me earlier that morning. I decided to sit in my car and admire the prayer garden that was just to the left of the church. This was the very garden my mother and I would stop at every Thursday before and after service. I was tempted to enter but did not want to disturb what appeared to be a woman in her late sixties taking time to tend to the bushes and plants. I sat back and just took in all the beauty of the garden and the peace in the moment.

It was hard to stay to long in the moment as my eyes kept being led to the giant wooden cross that was sitting right in the center of the garden. A white cloth was draped around the upper beam as if to say, “He has risen”! To the right of the cross was a white stone altar, I could almost hear His voice “just lay it down”. That is when I felt the leading to just get up and go, meet the gardener and ask her if she was the one I needed to thank for the beautiful job of tending to His handy work. I slowly walked up to the garden so as not to frighten her. Taking in all the smells, the fresh cut grass and the sweet sent of the roses tickled my nose.

She appeared to be somewhere else in thought as I said "are you the one who keeps this place so beautiful"? She looked up stunned as if she was not sure I was talking to her even though she was the only one in the garden with me. Our eyes locked and in a heavy accent, she told me, “I am just an old woman with no talents who wants to give back to Jesus.” She stuck her hand out to show me the dirt from her work and wanted to shake my hand but did not want to get me dirty. In a quiet and gentle voice, she gave me her name, Emma, the gardener, the one who kept His roses cut and his flowers watered.

She explained to me how she came to the garden every day to tend to it’s needs after service was over when every one would go home. She had a spirit of humility that was reflected in the way she held herself, not someone looking for kudos but someone wanting to give back because she had been given so much. She kept saying she just wanted to make Jesus smile. My heart was overflowing with compassion and love for this total stranger who shared the very same heart beat as myself.

I shared with her about my time at the church and in the garden and how my mom and I would faithfully attend service every Thursday morning, coming to the garden before and after the service. We would take in the beauty of the flowers, the sent of the roses and the message of the cross and the altar. I explained to her about my mother’s illness and how she had just recently passed away. I could tell she was patiently waiting to share with me about something and with a pause in the conversation and her eyes wide open she quickly asked me “why Thursdays”, she was beyond curious, I could tell as she leaned in waiting for my response.

It was a simple answer, it was the day we picked to be our day, where we would go to coffee, shopping and church. Because of her illness, many things were limited but we both cherished our Thursday morning quiet time together, in the end, it was difficult to get her out and I know she missed our weekly trips to the little garden tucked beside the church. My new friend Emma shared with me how Thursday service was dedicated to the hopeless, she shared with me about the patron Saint Jude and his connection to Thursday as well. I thought, “of course, that would explain the open prayer time the priest would give us during service.”

I am not sure how we got on the topic of Israel but I had an opportunity to share with her that I had just recently visited the Holy Land and how much I was touched by the gardeners tending to the needs of the gardens I had visited. I told her how much she had done the same for me this day as well, her gift of gardening had brought peace to my moment of grief and a gentle reminder that I was just in a season.

Once again, she spoke up about her love for Jesus and wanting to give back, she seemed almost ashamed to admit that she had nothing to offer, a woman without talent is how she referred to herself. I looked her straight in the eyes and with confidence, I told her that it takes incredible talent to greet a stranger and make her feel so at home, I thanked her for taking the time to talk to me and for the way she made the garden shine. She asked me my name and said she would never forget it and thanked me for the compliment as if it was the first one she had ever received. Silence overtook the conversation and I knew that that was my queue to say goodbye. I thanked her once again and promised I would come visit her in the garden. I thanked her for sharing the love of Jesus with me and reminded her that she was an answer to my prayer.

Here I was, on the first day of feeling hopeful after one of the greatest losses in my life. Here we were, an insignificant gardener and a grieving daughter, who through a brief meeting and a moment in time experienced purpose and peace as we both chose to share our hearts, her weakness and my loss.

I left the garden that day, ready to dance before my God because once again I found His promises unfolding in the very moment I chose to say yes.

11You have turned my mourning into dancing for me; You have put off my sackcloth and girded me with gladness,
Psalm 30:11

My Mom

“When I stopped seeing my mother with the eyes of a child, I saw the woman who helped me give birth to myself.” -Nancy Friday "

A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary." -Dorothy Canfield Fisher

It was my honor and privilege to have spent the last twelve months of my mom’s life with her when she came to live with my family and me last May. Because she chose to live in the moment and trust God with her future, none of us really knew how sick she really was until the very end. Mom you taught us to live well. Mom, I watched you fight for your life over the last twelve months and instead of giving up or giving in to your circumstances you embraced them and made the most of them.

You made it clear from the moment you arrived until the day you died that you trusted God more then you trusted the diagnosis. I will never forgot the last doctors appointment when the conversation turned from your care to the doctors faith, your doctor wanted to know more about what you believed in and by the time we left you had her requesting for you to bring her a bible to your next visit, she wanted to know about this God you trusted and the Jesus you loved. It was amazing to watch the look on the doctor’s face as you shared with her all you did and all you had planned on doing. You pressed in and pressed on when many with your disease had chosen to just quit and give up.

Living in the moment and letting go so we could grow was a running theme in your life and only now looking back can we truly appreciate all that it cost you to let us go, the balancing act it took for you to not hold on to tightly or to let go too quickly of all six of your children. Mom, how many times did you hide your tears, as you slowly let us go, knowing that for us to grow you would have to let us go? You did not just do this once or twice but six times. Even in your final hours, it was easy to tell that you were still holding back so we could let go.

One of your greatest strengths was the way you allowed all of us kids to go through our struggles, you never tried to fix, rescue or save us from ourselves or our circumstances. I use to think that your silence meant you just didn’t care, but I could not have been more wrong. You sat patiently by waiting, watching and listening as we all continued to grow, some of us taking longer then others. We are the kind of adults we are today because you let us go so well. Mom, you were more concerned with listening then speaking and because of that, many people outside of our family would seek you out. Mom, you had the ability to create community wherever you went, you gave others a sense of belonging and I think that is why so many people adopted you as their mother, sister, and friend.

Mom, you taught us how to fold into the moment and press into the pause. Even before your disease, you were not one to rush. You took in every moment and enjoyed it to the fullest, what a gift you have given us, what a life lesson we will never forget. I will miss the early morning sunrises we use to share as we headed out to the farmers market, the evening chats in the sanctuary as we watched the sun go down and the afternoon chats on the front porch drinking our smoothies with the kids and just taking in the day.

Mom, one of my last and favorite memories of you at the house was when you came into the kitchen early one morning, shuffling along the floor, a sound I came to enjoy hearing in the house, we knew where you were by the sound of the shuffle and the lay out of your oxygen cord. This particular morning as you came into the kitchen you stopped me in my tracks, with out words you had me step into the moment and grabbed my face, bent my head down and planted a kiss on my forehead and said, “I love you” and then shuffled back to your room. I followed you like a little girl wanting to know what that was for and when I asked you looked me in the eyes and with that great big smile of yours and said “just because”. I left your room with the feeling that all was well with my soul at that very moment, not knowing that that was going to be one of our last moments in the home together.

Mom, even in the end you still lived so fully in the moment, I wish I had a video of the scene I saw as I walked into the E.R. the last Thursday night of your life, Dennis and Patrick celebrating mother’s day with you, you were completely engaged in the moment, a smile a mile long as the boys lifted your oxygen mask so you could enjoy some simple wine tasting, the balloon and card on your table spoke loudly that you were a women who celebrated life.

Mom, every nurse and every doctor in that I.C.U. had been touched by your presence. As the calls came in from Eileen and Michelle, and David arrived with his family, your eyes would tell us that you were entirely aware and that you were leading all six of us through the process of letting you go once again by helping us stay in the moment. Mom, you will be missed by your family and friends, your smile your laugh and the way you made the moments count. We will forever remember how you lived in story and made memories out of your moments and a legacy out of letting go.

These are pictures I took this morning from the Dead Sea, who would have thought, I sat an watch the sun come up from the shore of the
Dead Sea!!!! What an amazing experience. I will try to write an entry in the next few days. It has been the most life chaning trip I have ever taken. I am on my way to the Sea of Galalie and then to Nazareth.