What my mother remembers

My Mom turned 97 this year and her memory for daily interactions is tenuous. Sometimes when I visit, she asks me five times about something I brought. We write our comings and goings in her guest book as a memory tool. 

But here’s the thing: when I walk in the door her face lights up. When she speaks of my dad, her voice is full of gratitude even when it holds some grief. When she mentions my sisters or my aunt, she is quick to say how much she appreciates their care. The other day, she told me that she woke during the night and could not go back to sleep, so she decided to count her blessings. She had a long list. 

Her life has been lived with an emphasis on relationship. She consistently chooses the path of love. Rules are important, but love comes first. If you don’t deeply love, you don’t have the authority to impose a rule. 

It’s not a Pollyanna view. She has buried two husbands – one when she was 27, one last year. She always believed that it was best to face things head on and to talk about them, truthfully, quietly and with grace. Hers has been a life of determined joyful gratitude. 

This is not an accident. 

It is a practiced pattern. 

So well-practiced, that she doesn’t forget it. 

Lullaby realization on Mother’s Day

singing a lullabyMy mother’s lullaby was a version of an old Welsh song. I remember it like this:

Sleep my child, and peace attend thee,
All through the night.
Guardian angels God will send thee,
All through the night.
While the weary hours are creeping,
Angel guards their watch are keeping,
While my little one is sleeping,
All through the night.

As a child I focused on the ‘angel guards.’ It took me a long time to realize that the words she was singing most fervently were those in the refrain: “all through the night!”

Here’s to Mom and to moms everywhere
Who sing comfort, even when they are exhausted
And who embody those angel guards.

[photo by Carol Von Canon per cc 2.0]

ninety-six years of quiet blessing

Aunt Nan

Yesterday, I went to the funeral of my aunt.
Her obituary was not filled with a list of accomplishments,
But the room was filled with a host of people she loved.

She was a pillar that supported the roof over my childhood
She made the sandwiches for our tree house lunches
She took us swimming and held us with her laughter.

As we grew, she gave us books
That pushed us beyond the boundaries of our small backyard
Suggesting that the grace and love of God were big enough for more.

Because she loved deeply and let herself be loved
She gave us ninety-six years of quiet blessing.
She taught us to be grateful … and we are.

Like a Child

blowing a bubble

To enter the kingdom of heaven, turn and become like a child. (see Matthew 18: 2-4)

This morning, I am a child.

I see the world with child’s eyes.
I hear the rumble of thunder
And remember being snuggled in my mother’s lap
Looking out the big windows of my childhood home
Counting the seconds between flash and sound.

When the skies clear a bit,
I run outside to play in the mud
Fascinated that a little moisture can turn dirt
Into something to be molded and shaped
Making ant highways with a twig.

And when one of those ants stings my finger
I run back in to find my comfort in a hug.
A kiss and a smile are deep medicine for my soul.
This anchoring process – going out and coming back
Stitches my days with love and adventure.

She blows the hair back from my face
And gives me bubble-soap and a wand.
I run out again to fill my world
With tiny orbs of dancing, translucent color,
My breath within them carried high.

This is, indeed, the kingdom of heaven.
Held in comfort, sent in wonder,
Coming and going, both anchored in love.
Feeling God’s breath upon my face
Breathing it back into the world.

I am grateful this morning
For a moment of childlike grace.
For the whisper of your consolation
For your gifts of beauty
For the burst of life within my soul.

[photo by Stuart per cc 2.0]

Thanks for intentional mothering

mother's hug

Your lullaby is the secret melody of my soul
Singing me through the night
And into the arms of God.

Your whispered prayers,
The ladders to heaven
Where angels come close enough to touch.

Your eyes,
A mirror of my very self
Framed in love – reflecting only beauty.

Your arms,
A ready haven, melting hurt
Into a puddle of love.

For these gifts of intentional mothering,
I am so very grateful –
They gird my soul with grace.

[image cropped from photo by Maria Grazia Montagnari per cc 2.0]


Remembering grace

back fenceHello
Do you remember me?
I used to come to talk to you most every day,
Leaning across the back fence of your mind,
Picking at the splinters in the rail,
Looking up at the clouds with a cocked eye,
Wondering with you about the rain.

Do you remember
The sweet release of walking across campus on a spring day
When the sun was intense and the breeze cool?
When the sheer joy of being engaged in a project worth doing
Hung playfully in the air
And the energy of shared purpose kept us fully engaged?

Do you remember
When movement felt good?
When arms swinging, backpack singing, legs reaching,
Were part of the joy of the journey?
When the caress of walking through waist-high wildflowers
And their gentle, moist presence
Brought a soul-deep green into your day?

Do you remember
The sleeping child upon your lap
Whose unconscious move to snuggle deeper into comfort
Was also a deep comfort to you?
When the flash of curious question in their eyes
Fed your soul with wonder?
When spontaneous smiles erupted for bugs and stones and anything fuzzy?

Do you remember
The comfort of sitting quietly together
Watching the sunset?
When the palpable sense of belonging to each other
Made words redundant?
Do you remember the touch of love?

Do you remember me?
I still come to talk to you most every day,
I still pick at the fence and look at the clouds.

I do remember. Thank you.

I am grateful, today, for the call to remember the richness of my life.
I am grateful for these whispered memories
For each small glimpse of wonder and connection.
They feed my soul with grace, again,
Just as they did before.

[photo by Bunches and Bits {Karina} per cc 2.0]


Celebrating 50 years of Life Together

anniversary celebrationLife is found in relationship.
Even an introvert knows that.
And a good relationship gives birth to another
… and another and another.

This week I watched a tapestry unfold
The individual threads – each one unique –
Delighted in their interconnections;
Each enriching the other.

Friends and family, together.
Stories told and embellished.
Old memories unfolding into new ones
Held together with the kind of laughter
That needs no excuse to blossom.

Perhaps the biggest gift
Was watching the youngest generation
Inviting all the others to dance in sweet abandon.
It is a lovely promise of the years to come –
Love expanding to embrace – and to grace – the world.

[Tim and Anne Banks – 50 year anniversary celebration – August 7, 2015]


schoolI come today to a schoolroom: wooden floors, old wrought-iron desks with wooden tops and inkwells, a slate black board, like a room from a museum. This room carries the echoes of an even older classroom with rows of benches, a pot of clay for tablets, and a stylus by each seat. They are quiet now, no students squirming in their seats, no teacher rapping on her desk or master tapping his foot on the floor. But there is an echo of the grand enterprise that inhabited such places – the task of wrapping minds around fact and turning it into knowledge. Continue reading

Home for the Holidays

sepia-toned photo of christmas treeI have been trying to fix in my head an image of what “home for the holidays” means to me.   It’s pretty easy to remember what it meant for me as a child. I have lots of sepia-toned memories — you know the ones that have been pushed so far away by time that they are more memories of memories now. Continue reading