Saturday, July 11, 2009
“I forgive myself and others… I accept God’s love and know that I am whole and worthy, just as I am.” The Daily Word is so welcome. As I read “just as I am,” I hear Mom’s voice in the hymn, “Just as I am, without one plea…”
These are my roots, for better or for worse. This morning, as I open the front door on this beautiful summer morning, I automatically look up the outside stairs because something catches my eye. Ever since I began living here full time and then part time since May, 2005, my cat, ,Kibi has been part of this house life. Even though I know she is gone, I look up expectantly, imagining she might appear to me there, where she had been so often.
Before Dad passed away in May, 2007, I would get up early to make coffee, and go out the front door and up the driveway to get the morning papers. Kibi was always right with me at the door. Most of those mornings the first years I got the paper and then let Kibi squeeze quickly through my feet as I opened the door again. I knew she would scamper right up those outside stairs to investigate which other cat had sprayed by the upstairs door during the night.
She has never lost her love for fresh air and the fascinating sights and smells outside the house. But an attack by another cat years ago had affected her jumping, and she would not be safe on her own outside anymore. It seemed a stroke of luck that by the time we came to live with aging Mom and Dad, JJ was interested only in snoozing on the couch and Kibi was content with a morning scramble up the stairs.
When JJ was gone (2006) and Dad had passed, I had to train Kibi to stay inside each morning. Mom had become so forgetful that she might have left the front door open and Kibi could have been lost without us even noticing.
Kibi did seem happy to begin a new ritual with Mom at that time, having Mom open her sliding glass door to the small balcony every morning where Kibi would stroll out and explore. The balcony was tiny, but the view was a cat’s delight. When Kibi stopped requesting this ritual six months or so ago, I should have known that her life was coming to its conclusion.
I wonder about Mom now, but I see that no one ever knows the journey or timing of another’s life. Sometime after I went back to Landrum a month ago, Mom stopped drinking her coffee. We had always brewed at least two cups for her in the morning. Now she still reflexively wants that hot coffee first thing, but I notice that it sits in the cup for most of the day. Each evening I empty the extra cup from the coffeemaker and dump the full or half full cup remaining in her cup.
This may just be a sign of changes in her elderly years, with years to come. Mom is exhausted much of the time, does not wear the sleep apnea air mask beside her bed, and she does not want surgical removal of the growing cyst on her thyroid. I believe it is that growth which is affecting her swallowing and air intake so she often coughs at length.
But at this moment I would still expect Mom to be with us for her 90th birthday, October, 2010. On the other hand, like Kibi, who went through changes but seemed very much alive and active until just a few days before her death, you never know about Mom.
I pray that she may be allowed to pass on in peace, for her sake and ours. All the power and brain focus and command of immense bodies of knowledge and skill have been compromised. Always remaining is her insatiable curiosity, eyes good enough for voracious reading, and hearing strong enough for hearing PBS or conversing with Katie.
I wonder how I can be here, in service to Mom, to my brothers, to myself and our family, and find a way to not just be full time in grief and mourning. I think of those spouses who endure their partner’s loss of not only all faculties and memory, but of recognition of them as partners for life. How can those husbands or wives bear the pain of seeing their loved one disintegrate before their eyes and then not only not recognize them, but often treat them with anger, hostility and even rage?
Being in the moment. In the moment, I experience gratitude for having had Kibi my cat angel for almost 20 years. I am grateful for the way she looked me and others right in the eye, as if truly communicating with us. I am grateful for her desire to connect, even with those who didn’t want connection. I will always remember her snuggling up to JJ despite JJ’s feigned indifference, and the way Kibi was so open and friendly as a kitten.
Somewhere along the line Kibi was hurt enough to draw in, but she was always her loving, free spirit with me. I love to think of her up on the tall cat tree in Rohnert Park looking out the window, and out on the patio, particularly lying in the warm air in the flower boxes. I love to think of her running up the stairs here in Carlsbad, and the love and affection she gave Mom and Bud.
I am grateful that Kibi could just lie down at the end, make one heroic goodbye visit downstairs to Mom, and Dan could have that one day off to come down and help Kibi through the end. Now I have her ashes, and one day I will know it is the right time to spread some in the Rose Garden and wherever.
In this moment I am grateful for the intact family I grew up with, for the witness of lifelong love between Mom and Dad, for their families and my grandparents, for the education, love of natural beauty, value of working on relationships, and container of the church home to bring us family then and now.
I am grateful for the opportunity to have helped Dad and to have been with him, and for this opportunity to help Mom and to help Dan and Bud by honoring the mother who gave birth to us and who helped form us. We have received every educational and creative resource and opportunity we could have desired.
While we may have felt a hole where we desired wholeness, while we may seek love and praise for ourselves when we received food and shelter, we can be grateful for each person doing his or her best. There were no alcoholic, abusive fathers. There were no divorces or lack of stable home.
Nothing is perfect for anyone. I ask forgiveness for my own need for perfection. I ask forgiveness for my anger at Mom for being emotionally too absent or abandoned herself that she could not shout my praises and her love for me from the rooftops. I ask forgiveness for myself that I want too much from her.
I have been given much. To those to whom much is given, much is asked. I ask to see that not as a judgment and demand on me to be other than I am, but as a statement of value, or worth, of wholeness. Perhaps in prosperity I have not been open to angels. Perhaps in multiple opportunities and gifts I have not remembered compassion for myself or others, or seen the hands of angels and spirit in the gifts.
Just as I look back and see how very attractive I was in times when I felt so unattractive and unworthy, I pray for self-love, for new eyes to see myself as lovable and worthy, just as I am. Just as I am, without one plea.
Just as I am, without one plea,
but that thy blood was shed for me,
and that thou bidst me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
Just as I am, and waiting not
to rid my soul of one dark blot,
to thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
Just as I am, though tossed about
with many a conflict, many a doubt,
fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
Text: Charlotte Elliott, 1789-1871
Music: William B. Bradbury, 1816-1868
I would be true, for there are those who trust me;
I would be pure, for there are those who care;
I would be strong, for there is much to suffer;
I would be brave, for there is much to dare.
I would be friend of all–the foe, the friendless;
I would be giving, and forget the gift;
I would be humble, for I know my weakness;
I would look up, and laugh, and love and lift.
I would be faithful through each passing moment;
I would be constantly in touch with God;
I would be strong to follow where He leads me;
I would have faith to keep the path Christ trod.
Howard Arnold Walter, 1906
These are hymns so present in my childhood. They were sung frequently at North Hollywood. They remain in my heart and in my consciousness. Let me know embrace all the wisdom and comfort that has ever come to me, rejecting only the chaff and the untrue, holding close the treasure of truth and love.