A mother’s love is unbounded by earthly dimensions.
(This story is revived from a previous year. It is a true story, worth re-telling.)
Connie was cleaning her mom’s house for the last time. It was the kind of cleaning that is an undoing, a systematic removal of physical evidence of a life lived. Since that fateful day, grief had been her constant companion. Now her life was divided into two periods: a Time-Before, and the Time-After mom died.
In the Time-Before, she and her mother had plans. They would visit gardens, art festivals and go antiquing in scenic places that time had forgotten. After Connie’s retirement, they would have all the time in the world to leisurely explore quaint little hamlets. But time was not on their side. An abrupt phone call from the hospital changed everything. Even the ringtone sounded urgent and foreboding, starting a course of events that Connie could not have predicted.
The voice on the phone said come to the hospital, quick. Her mom may not survive the night. Connie arrived in time to be with her mom, to sit with her as she drew her last breath. Then began the Time-After when Connie’s own heartbeat drummed hollow, each lub-dub echoing a new reality, a life without her mother. The planned outings that would never be turned into shadowy silhouettes fading beyond her reach. She wondered if a person could die from so much heartbreak.
A Cradled Heart
A solemn numbness invaded Connie over the next few days. Condolences from family and friends offered loving support, somewhat dulling the pain. But grief is a vacuum that swallows up any sense of comfort. It bookends your days with a harsh stabbing reminder each morning and a heavy wearied heart at night.
Then came the reality of clearing out her mom’s apartment, going through everything, each item a piercing memory until finally it is all undone.
It took two weekends. With just a few more boxes to load from her mom’s cavernous home, Connie was about to take her final step out the door. With plastic bags holding a variety of assorted items hanging from each arm, she turned around for one last look. Her teary eyes surveyed the bare rooms, absent of furniture and the personal things that put together, create a home. Yet, hollowed-out and empty, the place had a presence she slowly began to acknowledge. Throughout the ordeal, she felt a loving essence that sustained her, a caress that seemed to cradle her aching heart. And then, that loving spirit gave her a little nudge.
Connie felt a sudden urge to put the bags down and curiously study an open window. It was a nondescript window with lace curtains that looked onto a nearby pasture. Connie thought, I must have left the window open. A slight breeze floated into the room and the lacey curtain waved a bit, as if to punctuate her final departure with a soft goodbye. A click later and that window was preserved in her cellphone and just as quickly, forgotten.
Weeks later, Connie was looking for a way to step out of her grief, a sign, or something that would let her know her mom was in a good place. How could she know she already had it?
One afternoon while sharing photos with a friend, the picture of the window slid into view. To Connie it was still just a window, but her friend saw something different.
“Look again, Connie.”
She looked. Utterly surprised, she blurted out, “How did I not see that?” There, in plain sight was an arrow pointing upward. It was green and radiated light. Like a light in a dark storm, it beckoned to her like a beacon of hope. It felt like a gateway, a portal. And that is when grief loosened its tight grip and set her soul free. Aloud she whispered, “Thank you Mom”.
Windows: The Continuity of Upward
Connie’s story compelled me to think more about spiritual symbols, colors, and their meanings. Colors are mentioned in the old and new testaments hundreds of times. I also looked to artists as well as writers. I discovered that green is the universal color of new life, rebirth, and immortality. Then I found a commonality regarding windows as a metaphor. A window is a portal for new perspectives, for thoughts and for the soul to move freely, breaking down boundaries. The upward arrow signifies continuity.
I think about the beautiful stained glass windows adorning the small parish church in my hometown. Each one was a beautiful work of art, yet I was always drawn to one in particular. It was the one I sat near every Sunday. It was the open always left open.