My beautiful mother

The crisp edges of the pink-and-white-striped oxford shirt reveal a lot about my mother. Rather than pestering her with questions about her health and well being, all I need to do is check on her creases. And yesterday her shirt was a picture of ironed perfection, not a wrinkle in sight. Ironing is her passion. If she can stand, her ironing will get done.

We went grocery shopping, and she was on her own. She pushed the cart, she bent and lifted and crossed items off her well-planned list. She chose carefully the items that will help her with her dietary restrictions, and she splurged on a small mocha at the store cafe. She laughed with the check-out clerk and confidently announced to the bagging guy that we wouldn't need his assistance. She was positively buoyant.

It was June of last year when I learned that such a simple trip could be a miracle. We had no dreams for a November of errands and well-pressed shirts; it was the grim here and now, and treatment plans and tying up loose ends were all we had to look forward to. Those were raw days. We cried and we laughed, we made mistakes, and we got test results that frightened us. But life continued on.

Back in June 2009 I wrote:

So, what do you do when you know your time on earth is coming to an end? Well, it seems that we are finding out the answer to that. We are doing some special things...But for the most part we find that we continue on with what we have always thought was worth doing. We read as many books as we can fit in a day or week, we love textiles and continue to admire the sunflower yellow fabric we found at IKEA. I spend time watering and dead-heading the rose bush in the morning, and I continue to find myself overwhelmed with the laundry pile. It's all shockingly normal.

This has continued to be true (although the rose bush is horribly neglected right now.) But in some ways nothing has been "normal" ever since. We are wiser, but we are also scarred; we have changed, never to return to more innocent days.

I cannot walk over to Mom's house in the morning without wondering what I will find; will she be on the floor, ill with infection? Each time I open the door and find her reading at her table, or happily resting on the couch, I realize I have been almost holding my breath. It is not until I see her that I can tell myself to breathe normally.

When I walk past sunlight illuminating the edge of an antique white bowl, I stop and appreciate it. I didn't realize until recently that Mom taught me all I need to know about the beauty to be found in the rim of a bowl, the simple splendor of white shaped round. None of this was spoken, but she has always lived it in whatever circumstances she found herself.

So everything is normal and yet nothing will ever be the same again. The sun still rises each morning, the laundry pile still reaches ridiculous heights, grocery shopping still needs to be done. But now fear is a choice away, and beauty is found in the most ordinary of places. Despite the continuing diagnosis of terminal cancer, my mother is alive and ironing. Seventeen months ago I never would have imagined it.


Friend of Stephanie Martens here. Very touched by this and calling my mother RIGHT NOW.

My mom is a 17-year breast cancer survivor and an inveterate ironer.


Anonymous said…
What a wonderful gift.
What a beautiful way to share it.
Skeller said…
I'm so glad God has blessed you all with this time & togetherness you haven't had the luxury of expecting.

Diane -
your way with words is simply ... powerful and moving.
Di said…
A friend of Steph's is a friend of mine. Welcome. And come back soon.

Does this mean "the prude approves"? High praise indeed.

I am ready to visit over coffee again. Concordia tournament is coming in January.

Carol in Oregon said…

I'm am breathless reading these words. I just read them aloud to Curt. You honor your mom while maintaining her dignity.

I continue to pray for my not-yet-met friend, Jean.

Steph Seefeldt said…
I don't have words for this one - sent the link to everyone I know. Hope that suffices. Love you, love Queen Jean. Bless you, my friend.

Jenny said…
So beautiful. I lost my mother in law three years ago. I made a chicken and rice soup last night and it reminded me of her. I almost cried. Funny, when I first tasted her soup, I thought it to be a little "peasanty"; that was exactly the quality I was looking for last night.

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