She is nameless and faceless in memory but not speechless. What she said is forever etched in my life journal. By changing one word–a preposition–she lifted my grief out of despair.
Every day for a year after my mother’s death, I dissolved into tears. I cried and I cried alone for the suffering she had endured at the hands of my alcoholic father. I remembered his physical abuse. I heard again her blood-curdling screams and the screen door slamming behind her as she ran into the arms of the dark.
I wept over my guileless mother going without money for the barest necessities. Underwear. Sanitary napkins. In the midst of her deprivation, I saw her make sacrifices for her children. More than once her fingers took a bite of meat from her mouth and handed it to my brother who had complained he was still hungry.
Shuttered in my house of mourning, I ached, too, for my mother’s childhood abuse by other hands. Why? She hadn’t done anything. Why was my mother the poster child for innocent victims?
After the alcoholism was a thing of the past, my mother was dehumanized again. This time, in her bedridden years by a urinary catheter bag. “I wouldn’t wish it on anyone,” she once told me.
I wished I had visited her more often. If only I had been a better daughter. More thoughtful. Kinder. If only . . . But there were no more chances. They had died with my mother.
As that grim year came to a close, I was tired of flailing about in the quicksand of grief. I wanted to get out–be at peace–but how? The answer came when least expected.
It was my first Sunday to join the group of volunteers who met to pray for the ongoing worship service. The leader began by asking us for personal prayer requests. Maybe it was because I felt safe among these strangers that I divulged being stuck in the torments of grief.
I did not finish with a plea for prayer, however. What bubbled out of me was the cry, “When will I get over this?”
Immediately, the lady, whose face and name are now blanks to me, replied, “You will never get over it. You will get through it.”
That made all the difference. One word. A preposition. Going forward, I only expected myself to get “through” the grief, not “over” it. So it was. And so it is.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me (Psalm 131:2 ESV).
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