10 May 2009

a motherless child

The choir I sing with at school is known for it's version of Wade in the Water. It is easily the most requested piece we perform. The song begins with my friend M. singing from the audience. The song builds as the choir appears from within the gathered people. Layer upon layer of music is stacked, one upon the other.

The basses start chanting--wade in the water, wade in the water. They're desperate for you to join them---"wade in this water," they seem to be saying. Next the tenors begin a Native American chant, reminding us of similar struggles of oppressed people. The altos come in next singing the words to the song: Wade in the water. Wade in the water, children. Wade in the Water. God's gonna trouble the water.

Soon, the choir is in a frenzy and the sopranos begin to wail. "I wanna die easy when I die. I wanna die easy when I die. Shout salvation as I rise. I wanna die easy, when I die."

Then, through it all, a single voice cuts the layers: "Sometimes, I feel like a motherless child a long way from home..." This particular lament ends, and all the other voices rush back like waves barely held back by a weak earthen dam. Suddenly, there isn't anything to do but sing and convince others that they, indeed, need to wade in the water.

At our most recent concert, the single voice lamenting its situation cut me like never before mostly because I've never been able to identify with it before. You see, this is my first mother's day as a motherless child.

A few years ago, I wrote this about my mom in an earlier blog post recalling some of my favorite memories of my mother:

But more importantly, I remember the little memories that give reason for the holiday. I remember waiting for mama to pick me up from Ms. Carrie's after she left work. I remember trips to Fayetteville--from Dunkin' Donuts to Michael's and seemingly every place in between, we seemed to own that place. I remember sitting at the upright in our living room and singing hymns that she loved and played (quite beautifully I might add). And decorating the house for Christmas--white lights. I always wanted multicolored. Little did we know that 7 years later, I would be the one pushing for the classic white while she would be arguing for the colored ones. I seem to recall visiting shut-ins with homemade cookies on every holiday. My mother has a way with older folks--she just talks and talks and they listen and talk..and somehow, everyone ends up on the same plane--I'm here for you and thinking about you. I won't forget you.

Today marked my first visit to her grave since her burial nearly 7 months ago. It was the first time I'd seen the granite marker with her name carved delicately under a band of flowers bordering the top. It was the first time my fingers had sifted through the grey gravel covering the earth she is buried beneath. After leaving some wildflowers, a picture of a postcard from postsecret, and a plant my dad had bought, I cried--for myself, for my dad, for my mom.

As my tears dried, I was surrounded by a warm breeze and I was reminded of all the good memories I have of this little country church. I remembered picnics under the huge oak trees and bare feet in the soft, country grass that faded into a sandy drive. It even smelled like I remembered it--like homecoming celebrations and old hymnals and prayers.

And the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John that I had read earlier in the day in front of the mother's day crowds at church came to mind: I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you (John 14.18).

One of the hardest things I've had to face in these past months is the sneaking suspicion that I'm part of a secret club that no one wants to be a part of, but that everyone eventually joins. I walk around wondering who knows what I now know: what the loss of a parent, of a mother, of a best friend feels like. My mom was all three.

But as time carries on, I start to feel a smile sneak onto my face as I wonder to myself who knows what else I know: all the good memories keep her alive and the promise that we aren't alone.

I'm not a motherless child. I am a child blessed by a mother who guided me, loved me, sheltered me and held me while she was alive. And I am child who continues to be blessed by memories and moments that guide me, shelter me, hold me, and remind me of that love everyday.


Tamar Orvell said...

This is beautiful, as you are. How I wish I had met your mom yet, as you write, memories keep her alive. And your sharing gifts me, too. My own mom is here. Physically and who knows how else. Locked into silence and staring, grogginess and immobility, she evokes profound sadness, and, when I'm wise(r), wonderful memories, too. All kinds of motherless children we are. And all kinds of mothered children. Is our "status" a matter of choice? Perspective? Attitude? Widest-angle lens? Mother's Day was tough for me, too. And blogging helped me, too. Much love to you, dear friend.

Amy said...

Yesterday I walked for my mom in the Race for the Cure. It's the tenth time I've done this for mother's day. The hardest part for me was seeing all the women that survived breast cancer walking down the steps of the art museum. I always remmber what W asked me, when he came with me a few years ago, "Why isn't grandmom Reba walking down those steps too?" It broke my heart--still does.

Keep talking about her, Jon. Keep talking about your grief too. It helps. And keep doing things to remember her. You are in my thoughts this week as you proces what it means to be without a parent.