Mother’s Day Masterpiece

I’m speaking at a church this morning; about mothers, creativity, and faith, as I culminate months of writing about the same topics. The message I hope to convey is that God has given each of us gifts, and it is up to us to use them.

Ephesians 2:10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

My mother knew this. She lived it every day as she raised ten children, practiced her faith, and injected creativity into all aspects of her life.

momin1974

While she produced many pieces of beautiful art, in the end, her life of faith had been her greatest masterpiece, the legacy she left behind for her children and grandchildren.

mom woodcarver

While I still have work to do to meet the end of May deadline, in honor of my mother on Mother’s Day, I’m sharing a small piece that comes at the end of my book, a brief, illustrative moment with my mother at the end of her life.

 

                                                       Vignette
It was an unseasonably warm October day. Mom and I had conversed comfortably in the car on the way to and from her radiation appointment; about my recent blog posts that mentioned her, the LIVE sign I’d purchased, and her concern over her cat being attacked by some feral felines. I’d assumed if she’d wanted to discuss more serious topics, she’d have brought them up.

Back at her house, I helped her out of the car. She swayed a little as she stood, and I grabbed her arm to steady her. She clung to me as we made our way to her back door. Mom expressed the desire to stay outside, so I settled her in a chair before getting her coffee and cigarettes. Setting them on the small white table in front of her, I asked if she’d be alright if I headed home to make supper for David and the children. She assured me she would. I can remember leaning down to kiss her cheek, and while I’m certain I would have told her I loved her, I can’t recall actually saying the words.
Once inside the car, I started the engine before glancing back at Mom. She was looking straight at me, a smile on her face. She raised her hand slightly, giving a little wave. It was that one small gesture that undid me. My throat filled with tears and I could barely breathe. I looked away so she wouldn’t see me cry. My mother is dying, I thought as I headed down the driveway. My mother is dying. I sobbed all the way home.
There is so much we didn’t talk about that day. In fact, we hadn’t mentioned death or dying in any of our conversations since her diagnosis. I’d been with her when the doctor informed her she had lung cancer, had heard her whispered “I wondered what it would be.” We never talked about fear, or even faith, which surprised me, considering how important her religion was to her.
More than six years after her death, in early 2017, when I re-read letters Mom had written, her Memory Book, and the odd notebooks and partial journals I’d inherited, I realized she’d already said it all, had managed to impart her faith and knowledge in the life she’d lived. There was nothing more to say. Her last lesson was in facing death with dignity, grace, and the firm belief she would soon be joining both our father and Our Father.
She surprised me, this mother of mine, appearing in this manuscript in ways I had not imagined, her words neatly written in her perfect penmanship. It was a delight when my father unexpectedly made an appearance in the ninth chapter, and healing when a poem about my grandson erupted from the ashes of grief.
As I culminate months of writing, in my mind’s eye, I see my mother sitting outside at that little table, a cigarette in her hand, a cup of coffee in front of her. Her face is lit by a beatific smile, her eyes filled with love. She lifts her hand, giving a little wave.
“I love you, Mom,” I say this time, waving back.

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Celebrating a Mother’s Creative Soul

Had she lived, my mother would have reached a milestone birthday yesterday. She would have been 90 years old.

Shortly after Mom’s death in 2010, after repeatedly reading her admonitions to her children and grandchildren “to utilize their God-given talents,” I decided to do just that. In her honor, I put together a power point presentation on utilizing creativity in everyday life. I first presented it to a room full of young homeschooling moms.

“My mother never doubted for a moment that each of her children had talent,” I opened with. “Do you ever doubt that each of your children possesses some inherent talent?”

The women shook their heads, smiling with pride.

“Do you encourage your children’s natural gifts and spend money on lessons or training?”

They nodded in response.

I paused, before adding, “But what about you? Do you ever doubt your own inherent creativity?”

Their smiles faded. Suddenly, they couldn’t meet my eyes.

A few months later, I did the same presentation for a group of women at the other end of the spectrum, empty-nesters and retirees. When I asked if they ever doubted their own inherent talents, their replies were heartbreaking to me, ranging from “I don’t have any talent,” to “It’s too late for me now.”

There’s a book in this somewhere, I thought then. Once home, I scrawled down some notes, throwing them in a folder I labeled “Creativity.” The key word being scrawled.

creativity book first notes

These notes and that 2011 power point presentation were the beginning of what would eventually become a book on creativity. Around the same time, I also began collecting quotes in a journal, quotes that speak to me now as I work on the manuscript. 

“It came to me yesterday that our life does not fully flower until it is over. It’s final meaning can’t be known until after we are gone. Written down, this makes it sound as if the worth of a life is weighed by the number of people who remember us. But I mean something more, which is connected to the new life my mother is leading now. Her power has intensified, rather the way a saint’s efficacy is spread,”– Phyllis Theroux, in “The Journal Keeper.”

“I have this little idea that worms its way through my head, that perhaps God is redeeming my father’s writing through my pen. He’s completing my father’s genius in me, but He’s doing it through my own frailty. I’m no genius. I’m a mess half the time. But God’s great work of redemption spans the generations. When I put words to the page, I wonder if my Dad can see me. Does he smile?”– from Mary Demuth in “Thin Places”

I’ve felt my mother near as I work on this book, wonder if she is smiling from Heaven.

Those initial notes became a well-planned proposal for a book with twelve chapters.

 creativity book first proposal (2)Since signing the book contract the chapters have morphed somewhat. I won’t share the updated titles, since they can change again once the editor gets a hold of it, but the changes were a surprise to me.  

My writing knows more than I know. What a writer must do is listen to her book. It might take you where you don’t expect to go. That’s what happens when you write stories. You listen and you say ‘aha’ and you write it down. A lot of it is not planned, not conscious; it happens while you’re doing it. You know more about it after you’re done.” – Madeliene L’Engle

I’ve had some other surprises in the writing process. While I’d assumed some of my mother’s words might appear in the manuscript, and had already fit in some as epigraphs (the quotes at the beginning of a chapter), I hadn’t expected Mom’s actual handwriting to appear.

first page (2)This creativity book project has turned out to be a labor of love. I can hardly wait to see where that labor takes me.

In closing, a message from my wise mother:

mom talents on loan from God