Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Chatting to Mum

 Oh Mum, you would love this tea. I brought it into the TH as a reminder of you. I also have one called Irish Eyes, but this Irish Breakfast is a pukka morning tea. 

Last night I couldn't sleep at all. I think I get that from you ... I didn't even bother going to bed. There were so many thoughts in my mind, so many emotions bubbling up. I have five years of talking to catch up on ...

Has it really been five years? Some times the days and weeks seem to have gone by so quickly that I can almost convince myself you're just in another part of town. Other times the moments drag themselves along behind me, dreary and lethargic.

I wake up each morning and see the quilt you crafted for me hanging on my wall. It is so perfect: the colours are ones I would have chosen for myself, and everything is symmetrical and designed for a "counter" such as I.

If I look to the left I can see Jenny II, positioned on the centre of the shelf in my closet for that very reason. Do you remember Jenny? You had my name for the last Christmas gift exchange. You had asked me earlier that summer what I missed from my childhood. The spirit of whimsy took hold of me and I asked you if you remembered my doll Jenny. I had had more dolls than any little girl has a right to, but Jenny was my favourite. She had blue eyes that blinked solemnly at me when I sat her up or lay her down. One day someone punched in her eyes and drew with indelible ink on her face. An adult glued her eyes in, giving her a fixed, vacant perpetual stare. I remember loving her even more, perhaps, now that she wasn't perfect. 

I told you the story of my poor wounded Jenny that summer afternoon. And at Christmas, your last Christmas, you presented me with a new Jenny.

I saw the uncertainty, almost embarrassment, on your face as you hesitantly handed the wrapped box to me. "It's just for a laugh, to show you I was listening to you that day," you tried to explain.

I saw a hint of fear that I was going to scorn your gift, indirectly rejecting you.

 I can tell you unequivocally that Jenny II was one of the best Christmas gifts I have ever received; she remains one of my dearest treasures because every time I look at her, perched on her shelf, I am reminded that you know me and you love me, perhaps even more because I gave you ample evidence time and time again that I'm not perfect.

It's so hard some days, Mum. Often the TH is at sixes and sevens and I cast my mind back to the weeks we opened in 2003. We were utterly naive, horribly ill prepared; and you, Bonnie Cunningham, Don-and-Norma, BA and Dad stepped nobly into the breach. You taught me how to make desserts and roast beef; how to wash the dishes without wasting water; how the kitchen needed to be spotless before I staggered my weary self upstairs.

You were less than a year post-op from your first enormous cancer surgery. You were exhausted and physically fragile, but you never quit. You were the last person in the kitchen with me every night for several months.

I always seem to be tired these days. I wake up tired. I've been wondering lately if this is how you conducted your whole life from the time you started to teach at the College, plus all the music, plus Easter and Christmas cantatas, plus counselling and listening, plus matron duties for the women students, plus the endless entertaining every single day. I remember being irritated with you when you would express how tired you were; to my enduring shame I remember that I would snap at you, "Go to bed earlier then ..."

Now I realize that there are other priorities, that the night watch is my trusted friend as it must have been yours, that sometimes the midnight hour is the only time I have really to think. I wish you and I could sit together now throughout one night and I could ask you all the things I still don't know.

The headstone was installed last week. Dad did such a good job choosing the stone, picking out the font and the colour. He had already spent weeks polishing and perfecting the words and design to be engraved. The finished result is a strong, beautiful, enduring statement of the two of your faith and hope.

I stopped at your home briefly this afternoon to pick something up from Dad, and was greeted by the dulcet tones of Jim Reeves singing, "Have I told you lately that I love you?" He never forgets; and while he is not lonely, I think he yearns more and more to be with you, to share with you the fragile beauty that these past five years have managed to sprout and nurture in the often parched soil of mourning.

(I want to thank you for your choice of a father for your children. Dad soldiers on with grace and immense kindness. He loves each one of us and accepts all of us the way we are. Whenever he speaks at a church his teaching is rooted in love - love for God and love for his fellow-pilgrims. People of all ages and walks are drawn to him. There could be no better example of a godly life for your five grandsons than their grandpa.)

BA, always observant, walked to the rear of the stone when we were admiring it in the cemetery last Wednesday, and she took this picture. The stone itself is polished plain black, the picture on it the reflection of the sunset at that moment.

 This early morning as the first rays of the sun offered the promise of a glorious day, I couldn't help myself: I wanted to be near you. Of course I know you are not there; but there is a certain wistful comfort to be derived from the solace of the cemetery. I gathered some sweet peas from the TH and drove to the cemetery as the sun was rising.

I thought about your long, hard days in the hospital toward the end. For a few moments on the Saturday afternoon, September 15, 2007, no one else was with you except for me. You asked me to read Psalm 70:

Make haste, o God, to deliver me; make haste to help me, O Lord.
Let them be ashamed and confounded that seek after my soul: let them be turned backward, and put to confusion, that desire my hurt.
Let them be turned back for a reward of their shame that say, Aha, aha.
Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: and let such as love thy salvation say continually, Let God be magnified.
But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help and my deliverer; O Lord, make no tarrying.

You were ready to go.

Today at lunch at the TH, as Dad was offering thanks for the food he prayed, "We thank You for this wonderful day, when you took Mum to be with You."

This is the day we celebrate your release from pain and suffering. 

But the flip side to the coin is this is the day we remember that your slipping this mortal coil signalled a new normal for those of us who remain. I would never wish you back, but what I wouldn't give for a few hours of your company!

I really wanted to know if heaven is indeed a wonderful place, as the children's chorus goes. I always want to know if you're happy, if people are treating you with kindness.

And then BA captured the most remarkable picture. When I saw it, it struck me that this was your message to us, that you are indeed happy; and so we continue to wait, people with hope who love you and want to be with you, thankful for your life and your ministry and your love.

It is truly a great privilege to be your daughter.



  1. Heartwarming story--made me think of my own dear mom.

  2. well written (I say with tears and awe) - sending hugs to you today!

  3. This message is so special...going straight from the lips of a daughter to the heart of a mother...a bond that is so perfect,exquisite and surpasses all the boundaries of love!! You are right can give away absolutely anything to get back some more moments of togetherness ....thinking of you...lots of hugs...

  4. you lost your Mom the same year I lost mine. But, thankfully they are not lost, they are at home with Jesus... thank you for the comforting words.

  5. Every day is Decoration Day for a mother so well remembered -- some hands are ever upon us. What a beautiful stone; I hope it stays just as it is for a long time. The sunset on its back must mean there is sunrise on its face.

  6. Truly beautiful! Thank you for sharing your heart for your mom and your love for her and your dad. Keep sharing, love and God bless you Karyn!

  7. What a beautifully written tribute to your Mom! What a thoughtful gift the doll was! Yes, what we wouldn't give just to spend a few more hours with our Moms down here. But someday, it will be forever!! love and hugs!

  8. Memories are such bitter-sweet things, especially memories of mothers. Thanks for sharing your heart Karyn.

  9. beautiful - can hardly type through the tears. thank you for sharing such tender and vulnerable emotions and thoughts...i miss you.

  10. Lovely story! I like the gravestone. The last picture BA beautiful. I am not sure if you captured the same, :) but I see the clouds forming a person with wings almost, some sort of heavenly being. :)

  11. Our mothers left us on the same day. Their funeral services were a day apart. How well I remember that time. My mind goes back there so often and many of the thoughts and feelings you have expressed mirror mine. What a wonderful gift we had in our dear and devoted mothers. We can learn so much from them. Thanks for sharing your heart, dear friend. I think it's time for another lunch or cuppa something together. I love you!

  12. I did not know that the headstone had so recently been placed there. Carolynn & I were in 3 Hills Sept 24 and saw it, as we visited the graves of our parents, and those of so many others who have gone before us. You and I need to meet again some day - I will always remember French 8 class with our funny little teacher! ---- Debbie

  13. Sometimes when I read something, the words "So true" play in my head. I know you know how it is, Karyn. And your writing about it is a dual comfort and gift to others. Thankful to be one of them.

  14. I am very honored to know Mrs. Irinside as my English Teacher and Choir Teacher at Beran Baptist Bible College, India. Aunty Ironsie, Thank you for your music and inspiration!

    Labya La Seng


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