Faith,  Grief

What Matters Most

Today marks 4 years of time without my mother.

Which seems absurd. Something about another revolution around the sun makes me a little sick, like on a carnival ride. We’re moving too fast. How the hell did we pass the Fun House again already?

I was prompted this morning to consider that grief reveals the things that matter most to you. I get that. I miss being seen and known by her and loved fully; support and safety matter to me in relationships. I miss our shared history; the stories only she can tell and the way she saw me that only she could; my personal history and other peoples’ stories matters a great deal to me.

But more than anything, I miss her. I miss the universe that is my mother.

Her skin mixed with coconut filling my car five seconds after she gets in.

Her laugh and scoffs, the way her bangles clanged around as she moved.

Questions she asked that showed me how differently her mind worked than mine.

Dyed blonde hues in her hair and the grey that chased them from her roots.

Our arms touching on the couch or bumping into each other in the kitchen or shoulder grabs for playful scolding.

I miss her faith. How easily she turned to God even when all evidence seemed to suggest God wasn’t there anymore. I miss the innocent way she talked about Jesus, as a friend, as a real and actual presence in the room. What a gift it is to know someone who believes the way a child does that they are in a secure relationship with the divine.

When she first got diagnosed she had to have surgery on her brain to remove the tumor. It’s a hell of a surgery and the risks are high. She came out and looked horrible, but we’d been told it had gone well. As they wheeled her into the care unit we met her in the hallway and she looked at my grandmother whose heart was sitting right there on the outside of her chest, looking for any sign that her daughter was okay, and my mom said, “Who are you?” We all held our breathe in anxious fear before a weak smile spread on her face, under the bandages and swelling, and she said, “Just kidding.”

Treatment for Glioblastoma is rigorous. The surgery comes first and then they hit you with chemo and radiation as soon as your body can handle it. No rest for the weary when you’re fighting to survive. My mom was very suddenly staring down a path covered in thick and poisonous thorns, the ground barely visible and no reasonable expectation she would get into any sort of clearing before she died.

The pain seemed to be the hardest part. She would lie in the bed we shared at Gramma’s and just pray; just ask God to give her some relief. And try to poke holes in it if you want to, but God did.

She felt God the Father put his huge, warm hand on her head and the Spirit engulf her with wings around her body. She said Jesus sat next to her bed as if in a chair and just smiled at her and talked to her. She asked him things and he answered. He told her she would be okay. I don’t need a theology to back this up, my mother talking to Jesus isn’t even shocking. I need my theology to be shaped around that.

So what matters to me? She does. Her her-ness. These annual markers are distasteful to me because they feel like more separation and grief is primarily something like separation anxiety. There is something in my body that rejects how much time and space seem to lie between my mother and I now.

And at the same time, she’s here, too. She’s in the space between us and closer to me than the breath that leaves my lungs. I can’t smell her or touch her or hear her anymore, but her her-ness remains. The way she lived her life is still teaching me, still inspiring me, still holding me to account for a love I’m not allowed to unknow. It’s the joy that joins the grief. That the depth of sorrow that actually physically aches in my heart is equal – maybe falls short of – the depth of gratitude I can draw from. I am thankful in ways that also ache.

Four years living this way seems both long and short, but it’s here. I love you, Mom. I hope you you aren’t missing a thing.


  • Shirley Larson

    Very heartfelt Krsyann. I’m sorry for your loss and the date that marks another lap around the sun that reminds you of your loss. I’m glad you still recognize the her-ness in your daily life. That will never go away.

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