Snuggling the past and living the present

Monday, July 11

My mom has been gone for 3 days now.IMG_4132

If you’ve lost a loved one, you know why I have to keep writing. You know that when something hurts this much, you don’t want to talk about it, yet you can’t help talking about it. Talking gets you closer to the one who’s gone.

So does going to a place where you can still feel her.

That’s why I’m lying on my mom’s bed, in her memory care home, alone and quiet in this dead space. The room is stripped, but the furniture is still here. I was supposed to meet the movers today, but we cancelled them. I am too overwhelmed by all her things that breathe of her and invoke a hundred memories that make me long for her even more. I can’t watch these things being loaded onto a truck today any more than I could watch the mortuary people carry her away last Friday. 

For a while, I just lie across her mattress that is silky to my touch. I pull her old quilt from a big trash bag nearby and snuggle it, curling into a fetal position with it bunched to my chest and spread haphazardly over my legs. I look out her window and let the tears fall freely. Mom died with this quilt folded underneath her pillow. She was too feverish to have it cover her. It smells faintly of her and faintly of an old person’s home. Today I breathe in the smell gratefully.

Lying on her bed like this brings me a little comfort and a lot of memories. So many times, I remember crawling into her bed when I was little, when I was sick or scared by a nightmare (or just pretending to be scared so I could be close to her). Mom would be sitting up reading, with pillows piled behind her. She would look fondly over her glasses at me as I padded in, sleepy-eyed and tear-streaked.

“What’s the matter?” She’d pull back the quilt for me to climb in next to her.

“I’m scared.”

“It’s okay,” she’d say. “It’s not real. Snuggle in here with me.”

And I’d snuggle. In two minutes, I’d be asleep.

All this week, I snuggled Mom in her bed while she slept, and I told her it’d be okay. I talked about another reality that was better than the one here.

But I’m scared of my reality. I am. I’m afraid of the cavernous hole inside of me. I’m frightened by this deep sadness and a world that feels foggy.

I know it will get better, so don’t tell me that. I know she’s in a better place, so please don’t tell me that, either. I need to lie here and snuggle the old quilt and feel the weight of a vital longing now unmet. I need to somehow live in the moment and also live in the past because I cannot think about the future.

34 thoughts on “Snuggling the past and living the present

  1. Chrita Johnson Hanson :-)

    They compare loss of a loved one to the loss of a limb. It holds true in many ways. At first the pain and denial are so great. The denial is first to go but it feels like the world keeps moving on like nothing happened and you just want to make it stop for a bit. Then overtime the pain of the loss lessens but that limb isn’t there, it limits what you can do, you have to learn different ways to do what that limb did. That empty place never went away for me because that person can’t be replaced and now and again I have phantom pains, that’s why I’m grateful we have the Lord to comfort us. I think writing is very therapeutic so write for yourself and say anything. David had some pretty sad stuff he wrote about in the Psalms because he could be honest with his God and he also knew that his God was there to comfort.

    1. Sue Schlesman Post author

      Christa, your words speak truth and comfort! You know whereof you speak. I agree with it all. There is a scar from not having my father, and now the hole is gaping open. I feel too young to be without parents. And yet, as always, God is reminding me of his Fatherhood and longing for intimacy with me there. Thank you for writing such a beautiful post. I like your term “phantom pains.” That pretty much describes my mom’s life. But she bravely lived on and brought God glory in spite of the pain. And yes–I have spent a good portion of my adult life in Psalms. So, so helpful and comforting. Thanks again! Love you, old friend! (Well, not OLD. We are, after all, the same age!) 🙂

      1. Chrita Johnson Hanson

        Did you notice how I signed my name (on your cast 🙂 We are OLD friends, some of us (not me yet!) are grandmothers!

          1. Christa Johnson Hanson

            No, I’m not a grandmother!!!! Friends my age in our area and friends from college are grammars, just a few. My sister is now a gramma.

  2. Michelle Harris

    My dear friend,
    I’ve been away and am just now catching up on all these posts. I’m hurting with you. This post was beautiful and made me cry–I could picture your and your mom’s bedrooms in that old house on Grove and you walking across that upstairs hallway to her bed to be comforted. I’ve enjoyed telling my children about your mom these past few weeks and her influence on me. Even so, Jesus, quickly come. Love to you and Mike and to your families, Michelle

    1. Sue Schlesman Post author

      Michelle, thank you for writing. I can picture Mom’s room, too–in fact, I can picture all of our old Pillsbury houses. Such great memories. What a special childhood! No wonder my Mom was so grieved to leave there. I understand it better now; in fact, I understand life in a whole new context now. I really miss her, but I’m so grateful I had the last week with her. I was holding her hand and encouraging her into glory when she passed. Just the two of us. I will treasure the experience always.

  3. Rob Loach

    Sue, I’m sorry you are hurting, and I’m talking to the One who heals broken hearts, as no human is capable of doing. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 says it so well, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”

    1. Sue Schlesman Post author

      Rob, You are so right about God’s mercies. I feel them and believe in His comfort. Can’t imagine how hopeless Mom’s death and my continued existence would be without hope that God is sovereign, loving, and gracious. The resurrection is a powerful comfort! Thanks for your encouragement!

  4. Katie

    Sue, your mom so obviously loved you dearly and taught you how to love and care for others. I see that in your responses. Her loss is a raw wound now. But treat yourself as she would have–with patience and understanding and encouragement. In time you will feel within you the strength she lent you by her example. Praying for you!

    1. Sue Schlesman Post author

      Thanks, Katie, for your encouragement. My goal is to be honest to others can be honest in their grief. There is no shame or unspirituality in feeling the depth of loss that death brings. Praise God, I have hope and confidence in the resurrection and in her eternal bliss! Thanks for your friendship!

    1. Sue Schlesman Post author

      Thanks, Ed. You are very kind. Experience is perhaps the best comforter in grief. Inexperience, even with the most loving intentions, trivializes the trauma of losing someone close. Grief does not equal unspirituality. Thanks for understanding and supporting me.

  5. Linda Melin

    Dear sweet Sue, go ahead and continue to wrap yourself in your Mom’s quilt and anything else of hers that makes you feel near to her. I still wear my granddaddy’s favorite shirt whenever I miss him. Yesterday, I received an old nut grinder that my grandmother had put aside for me and her hand written note saying she wanted me to have it. It will have a prominent place in my kitchen. You were right to cancel the movers. Take your time.

    1. Sue Schlesman Post author

      Thanks. My brother cancelled the movers. I was pretty much in fetal position meltdown. I’ve got them rescheduled now and moving more stuff out here (who knows where I’ll put it!) because I just can’t let go of her things. The girls and I each took some of her clothes. (Good thing I just took her shopping the last 2 times so she had some stylish-enough things to choose from.) We all feel better wearing them. Thanks for the encouragement!

  6. Maureen Longnecker

    I’m sorry for your loss, Sue. You did an excellent job of capturing the thoughts and emotions that accompany the loss of someone we dearly love! May you sense God’s presence and experience His comfort as you walk through the difficult path of grieving.

  7. Phil Armas

    Hi Sue,
    I shared tears with you as I read your post. I have no advice except to say I feel your sadness and my heart breaks for you and your loss. It inspires me to cherish my mom even more while she is here. Let us know if you or the family need anything at all.

    1. Sue Schlesman Post author

      Phil, I appreciate and love you and Robin so much. I must say, you picked a bad time to move away. I get Robin on a whole new level now that we’ve both watched a parent suffer on their way into eternity. It’s holy and beautiful and awful all at once. Thanks for commenting. You comfort me.

  8. KIm Lovik McGuire

    I’m so sorry for your loss! Please know I’m praying for you and your family.

    1. Sue Schlesman Post author

      Hi Shelley! Yes, I certainly appreciate and love our parents while we have them, but losing them is something you can’t prepare for. Your parents look good–I hope their health continues. Thanks for writing in.

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  9. Jan

    Someone with experience gave me good advice after my Mama was here in hospice. They said that I would probably need about 9 months to start feeling normal again, and that was close to what it took. I initially thought I had early onset dementia because of poor memory and disordered thinking, but in time my fog lifted. Yours will also. Be patient with yourself and know you are loved by many.

  10. Beth Alley

    Sweet, vulnerable Sue. What gifts you will now be given to fill that hole, slowly, surely. An ability to see, accept, love your mom, yourself, others with God’s eyes and heart. And like His heart, it will be unimaginably painful. Continue to accept all comfort to get you through. So much love sent to you. Beth

    1. Sue Schlesman Post author

      Yes, Beth, I know you’re right. What a hurry we are always in to feel whole again, aren’t we? We want to avoid living in a state of suffering, when I’m sure this is the best place for us to be to hear God and be changed by him. Thanks for writing!

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