Tomorrow is the fifth anniversary of my mom’s death. As I’ve said before, watching her take her final breaths was beautiful and horrific.

This is longer than normal for me, but it sums up my mixed feelings over the past handful of years.

It’s raw in some places, but so was I.

.   –   .   –   .

Conversation With My Dead Mom

I never write.

Can’t find the words.

Five years ago the pastor called you fearless.

I thought he knew you.

.   .   .

I know you.

If I found some words.


Would not be one.

.   .   .

You in your deathbed searched faces.

Unblinking eyes followed gestures, moving lips.

All we can do is make her comfortable.

As if already absent from the body.

.   .   .

Nothing left to do but pray.

As if left with nothing but hope.

But fearless?


.   .   .

You grew timid in your dying years.

Feared drives in snow then rain then after dark.

Afraid to travel after dark.

And here you are.

.   .   .

At the funeral I stared at your hollow corpse.

Outer shell made pretty, made up, hair in place.

Like you, we were dressed in nice clothes.

Shoes ready for the journey.

.   .   .

Valley is darkest part of shadow of death, pastor said.

Said shadows are just shadows, without content and powerless.

Once we have gone through them, I’m sure.

He looked at me and said be proud of this fearless woman.

.   .   .

Your broken dad my grandfather always said.

To be absent from the body.

Is to be present with the Lord.


.   .   .

Scripture (II Corinthians 5:6-8) makes it clear, he said.

His faith made death seem like a blink to clear vision.

What about the valley of the shadow of death stuff, the boy me asked.

What about that, he said.

.   .   .

Days before the funeral you were here.

Waiting heart beating.

Listening to doctors.

Talks of what happens next.

.   .   .

I looked for you in the final minutes.

Protracted pauses between short shallow breaths.

Silence so long to become awkward for the life of us.

We looked at each other and wondered if you were there.

.   .   .

How long is the valley, I wondered.

Are you inside the deepest part of the shadow?

Are you fearless?


.   .   .

Can we make you comfortable in your long night?

Are you afraid on your journey?

Through the valley?

Inside Shadow of Death?

.   .   .

Finally you answer.

Afraid of my own shadow?


No baggage. New clothes. Comfort. Able.

.   .   .

All we do is make pretty.

A hollow corpse comfortable for a time.

Stick it in the earth.

Say goodbye.

.   .   .

Loving wife and mother.

Someday forgotten name.

None left to remember.

Weathered granite on vacant lots.

.   .   .

All we can do is confine ourselves to prayer.

From cramped.


Broken spaces.

.   .   .

So what about that valley of the shadow of death, the middle-aged man me asks.

What about sickness and frailty and pain and loss and long fateful journeys and fearful passages and failure and fear of living and fear of death and fear of I don’t know what?

What about Fear? Fear of the Unknown?

What about that?

.   .   .

What about what?

I can’t find the words, you say.

I found some words but fear is not one.

I swear I see your living face smiling when you say that.

.   .   .

Got me. Did the real you just wink?

Son, there is no waiting room. No dark place.

In the valley.

Where shadows fear.

.   .   .

Mom, I knew you.

Timid you.

Fearful you.

Dead you.

.   .   .

I now know you.

Real you.

Fearless you.

The living you.

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