The Meeting Places

Some mornings the new mercy arrives at 4 a.m., looking like a slice of lemon yellow sunrise behind ragged lavender clouds.  My early morning drive to the hospital sent me due east.  Not knowing what I would find there, I thanked God for the mercy of ambulances and strong men who lift gently and answer questions with thorough patience.  When I arrived, I thanked Him for a thoughtful son who showed up unexpectedly and stood in a cramped, curtained room waiting for inconclusive test results.  There were no windows in this meeting place to announce daylight’s arrival, but this one thing I know:  by the time the coastal mist had burned off and blue sky had chosen the morning, Mum was already in heaven.

That afternoon, three generations gathered around spaghetti and salad and pictures from my mother’s albums.  Remembering and wondering and making ten thousand phone calls filled in the spaces of that whole day, but this is a homeschooling family, so the following sunrise was succeeded quickly by breakfast as usual — and trigonometry.  My graduating senior will tell you that trig has a language all its own, but what I see in these days of comings and goings is a charming branch of mathematics that assures me that there is a relationship among all the parts. If I know the measure of an angle and the length of a couple of sides, I can figure out the whole triangle.  This is oddly comforting on the morning after an abrupt departure that followed a mere three hours in the emergency room — a flight that somehow connects the vast horizon of heaven to the granite outcroppings and furrowed garden soil that comprise my everyday world.

Momentous Milestones

Poet Luci Shaw compares the death of a parent to standing on the top rung of a ladder.  Suddenly there you are, at the top, hands grasping at nothing, “no one above you to compass the wideness of space.”  Mum had long ago ceded the role of family matriarch to me, her older daughter, but even so, the generational ladder is filling up behind me and every milestone feels momentous.  For example, this year marks a perpendicular line that perfectly bisects the span of my days.  At the age of 27, I married an unreasonably patient man, and this month marks our 27th anniversary.  Finally, I have been married for as many years as I was single, my life folding over onto itself with a neat center crease like a greeting card — or a church bulletin.

This intersection of halves has set me to wondering:  would the single me even recognize her married counterpart, all settled into gardening and homeschooling, and happy to spend any amount of time alone with a book and a pen?  At the same time, my married self looks back with astonishment at all the energy and emotion that was spent like water in those early decades.  Surely there’s some way to capture and recycle it?

Of course, all this comparing and contrasting of the two halves is one more evidence that I “see in a mirror dimly.”  So, as I grab my cuff and vigorously wipe away as much of the fog as I can, the clearing surface reveals an aging faith along with this aging face.  The girl who loved theology — but was pretty sure she wasn’t smart enough to declare it as a major —  would be astonished at all the reading and re-reading of sacred words, the taking of notes and the building of outlines that goes on in this graying head.

The Truer Meeting Place

Paul writes about this kind of growth in a letter to the Ephesians that emphasizes wholeness and a maturing process that is endless, for today it is incomprehensible that I could be “like Christ in everything . . . so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.” (MSG)  Meeting myself in the middle and saying goodbye to my mother allows all that is past to strike a sympathetic chord with the future.  I’m encouraged to move forward, mindful of my weaknesses and stubborn sin tendencies — but not defined by them.

Madeleine L’Engle once said in her later years, “I am still every age that I have been.”  She may have worked that out through her career as an author, but with my mother’s departure, I’m seeing it happen in real life.  Already the past ten years of cantankerous demands and stubbornness are being swallowed up in memories of better days when she laughed at her own jokes and answered the phone with a high pitched “hallooo” (that my sister and I always made fun of).  Her older grandsons remember stale Oreos and boxed macaroni and cheese served with joy while they watched Teletubbies on her t.v.

Perhaps this miracle of memory foreshadows a truer meeting place that will become reality once faith has become sight; when the energy of the twenties; the ambition of the thirties; the settled contentment of the forties; and the ripening wisdom of the fifties and beyond all meet, join hands, and dance in a full-hearted, completely mended consummation of a life, “fully mature . . ., fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13 MSG)

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Mum, my curly haired baby sister, and me — probably in 1965.

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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for over 25 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

78 thoughts on “The Meeting Places”

  1. Friend, I love your words. I love that your mum had such a beautiful smile, and that you can acknowledge the irritability of her later years with equanimity, remembering her fulsome years.

    I understand what it is to be on the top of the ladder, no one else between you and …. the top of the ladder. You’re already doing a great job; nothing’s changed.

    Bless you… I’m glad that your mum has gone to be with Jesus. What better future could we ask for!

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    1. You know that your encouragement to me is a gift. Thanks for speaking truth into this time — and thank you for that word: “equanimity.” Gotta remember that one and try to use it today.

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  2. I’m sorry to hear if your loss. I’ve gone this path already–both parents gone. It is quite an adjustment to life on the ladder with generations behind you. I appreciate your lines from the Message and ” not being defined by your weaknesses.” Thanks to Christ who lives in us–we are free! Great writing, thank you.

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  3. Michele, this post is beautiful. You have so tenderly reminded us of the passing of years, to overlook the wrong and embrace the beauty in each memory. You also reminded me this morning that the years are fleeting while at the same time, the days seem long. May I make the most of every day and fully love those around me. May God bring you and your family His peace and comfort. xo

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  4. I’m not sure how you are able to articulate so beautifully so soon after your loss. Everything you describe vividly reminds me of the feelings and connections I tried to wrap my brain around after I lost my mom.

    The image of the ladder is perfect. I am at the top hanging out and some days just holding on. My family is all on the rungs below. The generation before me is now all gone. It feels a lot like the saying “tag you’re it”. But I wouldn’t trade this beautiful season for anything even though it comes with loss there is still so much to look forward to.

    Praying for you and your family as you journey forward knowing that you are exactly where you need to be.

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    1. Our brains do such odd things when we’re adjusting. Yesterday, I was on my way to meet with the people who will create the grave stone when right out of the blue I had a flash of panic that I’d forgotten to go visit Mum over the weekend. Phew. Not sure when my brain and heart will catch up with each other.

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  5. And every one of those years and happenings were woven into the fabric of your Mom’s life as well as yours and your children’s by the Master Designer who prepares each of us for stepping into glory. Thanks for sharing so beautifully! Those of us who haven’t gotten there yet will remember these words when the time comes.

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  6. Praying as the Lord gives you grounding on the top rung of that ladder, Michele. You always articulate and weave together the Lord’s working and your life experiences so beautifully. Sitting at your feet, and next to you, as just a few of those decades of life phases lived overlap and I am grateful for the Lord’s graciousness shining through you in every season.

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  7. Just tears this morning as I sat with your words. You have expressed so well the feelings that washed over my heart at my own Mom’s passing. She was the last one of the generations before me also. What reunions we will have when we all have our full faces given to us! You and your family are in my prayers this week.

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  8. Michele, you’ve expressed the feelings after a loss of a parent so well! I’ve only lost one so far but totally have those same feelings. Also, I too have passed that “been married over half my life mark.” In fact, I’ve now been a parent over half my life. And so, your paragraph I’m going to quote here means so very much to me: “Perhaps this miracle of memory foreshadows a truer meeting place that will become reality once faith has become sight; when the energy of the twenties; the ambition of the thirties; the settled contentment of the forties; and the ripening wisdom of the fifties and beyond all meet, join hands, and dance in a full-hearted, completely mended consummation of a life, “fully mature . . ., fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13 MSG)”

    Oh for those qualities each decade brings! (I think I long most for the energy of the twenties – what I couldn’t do with it now if I had it!)

    Thanks again for sharing your journey with us. I feel as if we are on parallel paths so it is good to commiserate!

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    1. Yes! Is it “misery loves company” or “a burdened shared is halved”? Probably both! This loss marks the last parent for my husband and me, which feels very strange. I won’t pass the threshold of parenting for half my life until I’m 62, so I’ve got a few more years to look forward to that one. Thanks for these encouraging words, Jerralea!

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  9. Michele, I read this in the very early morning hours before we had to go for medical appointments. It touched my heart in so many places, remembering all that transpired when Mom passed away as well.

    We both lost them to dementia yet we knew they were there to go and visit; it does leave such a gap when they are gone, just like you mentioned, hanging off the top rung of a ladder. We have our memories to store away in our hearts and things to do so we leave the next generations with those same memories and feelings, whether they are good or bittersweet. It is up to us to make certain our loved ones know how much they are loved and their value in our family tree.

    By the way, on the last day of nursing school I rushed home to call Nana and tell her I made it then remembered she had been gone for a year. I believe those are times they share with us, even though they have gone home to their reward. I think you, too, will have moments like that.

    Take your own time and way to grieve; it is a process that is personal and not one that someone can put in a box. Big hugs of comfort for you….God bless you and your family!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Only you could write this, O Wordsmith that you are. Stunning. Poignant. Perfect. Our mum’s are having tea today – lemon/ginger with honey – on the front porch of my mum’s heavenly mansion.

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  11. Beautifully done, Michele. This last week, I wondered why I hadn’t heard from you after I sent my newsletter this month. Now I know. In deep ways – I read that Luci Shaw poem over my mom’s grave two weeks ago today. Many, many blessings, dear friend.

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  12. Michele, this has to be one of the most beautiful, poignant posts I’ve read by you. LOVED it. I’m sorry you lost your mum. I’m fortunate to have both of my parents still, but I know that day will come . . . and I know I will grieve deeply.

    I nodded as I read about how you’ve been married for half of you life. I have been counting those same kinds of years. I married a little later in life than you did, so I still have a few years before I get to that perpendicular slicing of my years.

    I have to agree. I think I am a piece of each age I’ve lived so far. Hopefully, I’ve grown in wisdom, settledness, and grace and brought forth the best things from each decade I’ve lived.

    Happy Mother’s Day, my friend.

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    1. I keep losing track of Mother’s Day in all the other things that are happening, so thank you, Jeanne — and thank you for your kind words about the post. It’s almost inevitable that we will face this particular loss, but somehow, we’re never ready.

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  13. This post really touched me, Michele. Life moves so quickly and I’m so glad for those who take a moment to reflect 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

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  14. Dear friend, I’m so sorry about the loss of your mom. Her beautiful smiles in the photo is such a treasure.
    Holding hands with you dear friend. Can’t say more 😕😟
    God bless

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  15. So sorry for your loss, Michele.

    I don’t know how tough it is, but you make it look easy by the courage you’ve displayed in this post.

    Thanks for sharing those memories. Keep inspiring!

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  16. Oh Michele … I hear your heart, I grieve your great loss. I am so very sorry.

    May the Spirit whisper peace into your brokenness, may pen and ink give you comfort. Sending hugs your way right now.

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  17. Michele, this post is beautiful and truly captured the heart of the love you had for your mom. Losing a parent is a tough experience but you wrote about it with such beauty and grace it brought tears to my eyes thinking of the loss of my own mom so many years ago. xoxo

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  18. I bet that writing this beautiful post about your mother and her impact on your life–and the charge you now carry as the eldest daughter–was comforting for you, Michele. What a great mom she must have been and now her legacy lives on through you! I’m lifting you and your entire family up during this time of loss and asking God to gently “fold” you deeply in His arms of love and comfort.

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  19. I’m so sorry for your loss, dear friend. ((HUG)) My prayers are with you and your family during this time of remembering and re-framing. — This is such a beautiful post, Michele. You are a gifted writer. So thankful to have met you along the way. ((Love and prayers)) xoxo

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  20. Michele, my heart goes out to you. So sorry for your loss. ((Hugs)) Praying for you and your family, sweet friend.

    Love the imagery of the top of the ladder and the intersection of halves. We share that, my friend. This year marks for me being with my husband for longer than I was without him. ((Hugs))

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  21. A beautiful post, Michele. I, too, reminisce and look back in retrospect during this time of year. I love the quote you share from Madeline L’Engle, and I agree, it rings true as I think of my own mother, who’s been gone 13 years now.

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  22. Beautiful, my friend! Your words resonate deeply for me and I identify well with what it means to be on the top rung of the ladder. That happened for me in 1995 when my mother died on June 21, exactly 3 months to the day of my dad’s transition to heaven. I kept wondering how I had arrived at this place. The idea of a parent no longer being here with you is a transition that is hard to grasp since they always have been. Now, as I look back on the rungs behind me, I see my children and grandchildren and am surprised I arrived at this place so fast! Love and prayers to you this Mother’s Day weekend!

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  23. Michele, I am sorry for the loss of your Mother. It is so hard to lose our parents and I think you have written about it so beautifully in this post. My parents were both ill in the years before their deaths six weeks apart ten years ago, and despite a situation that seemed bleak, I was so taken by the mercies and blessings and sheer examples of the loving, caring nature of our God. You also cover ageing beautifully in this post, and milestones – and I do love the quote from Madeleine L’Engle. Thank you so much for sharing this post with Hearth and Soul. I’m so pleased to discover your blog.

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    1. April, I am thankful to meet you as well — and I know what you mean by the “mercies and blessings” during those hard roads. We do appreciate the little things more when life is challenging.

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  24. Michele, I am so sorry for the loss of your mom. You have profound things to say about relationships (but the word ‘trigonometry’ gave me hives 😉 ). May the Holy Spirit draw near as you travel through grief.

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  25. This just made me want to hug my mom so tight. She is a wonderful mother and devoted grandmother and we live less than a mile away from each other. I know heaven is perfect, but I’m selfish and want to keep her with me as long as possible. Thanks for sharing this on the #sundaythoughts link up.

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  26. I still miss my mama, six years after her death. God bless and comfort you as your process through the grief. It feels odd that life doesn’t stand still when such a significant loss takes place, doesn’t it?

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  27. Mother’s day is a hard day to face with fresh grief. Thank you for this beautiful post. I love that line from L’engle. Your words about your mom were echoed for me in this weekend’s funeral when already the wasting years were fading into memories of animal-loving, ranch living, good cooking and love.

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    1. Thank you, Helene, for letting me know that you also are facing your first Mother’s Day without a mother on this planet. And it’s so good to know that the same thing is happening for you in terms of the hard days being swallowed up in memories of happier times. Blessings to you as we walk through these days of healing and thanksgiving.

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  28. Stunning post, Michele. It seems that much of your heart and writing gifts are poured into this post, and the result is beautiful. As my parents age, I anticipate with great trepidation the kind of day you describe. That quote about the loss of parents leaving the child on the top rung of the ladder with nothing to grab on to is so poignant and accurate. And, yet, you’ve given me an optimism that I will manage to hold on when the time comes, because God is still above me and He will hold on to me. Thank you for reminding me of that and of the hope for the future where there will be no more tears and sorrow, and we will be reunited with our redeemed loved ones again.

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    1. You have expressed my exact hope in penning this piece. It was helpful to me to “say” the truth, to see it in words, and then to share it. We all need to hold onto the truth that we “sorrow not even as others who have no hope.” Such a jarring time, and yet God is always at work in these spaces.

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  29. Sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine what that will feel like when I’m at the top of the latter. Hoping it won’t be any time soon. My mom and I are really close, and I just can’t fathom not having her on this earth. Loved reading your ponderings. Thanks for linking up with Literacy Musing Mondays. 🙂

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  30. Michele – I always enjoy your writing but this touched such a deep cord in me. Your descriptions and comparisons and everything just had me praising through tears and I can so, absolutely and completely relate to SO much of what you wrote. I am sorry for the loss of your mother. It seems as though I lost my father yesterday, but it’s going on 2 years. Yesterday, and forever. God is so good to grant us His grace to see us through and the beauty of memories and family to carry us. Prayers – and thanks for touching me today.

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    1. It’s been over two weeks for us, and it still seems like yesterday that Mum passed away. I’m so thankful that my experience has helped you to see your own loss in a different and helpful way. Blessings to you, Carol. You are such an encouragement to me.

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  31. This is so beautifully written. That ladder analogy is so perfect. Both of my parents passed away in their later 60s, and I am the oldest of six, and I have that feeling sometimes. Neat thought that the good memories that swallow up the bad ones are a precursor of heaven. Grief is such a weird thing – I read just a few of the comments and saw one where you were afraid you had forgotten to see your mom until you remembered she was no longer there. That kind of thing happens so often at first, and later on something unexpected blindsides us into tears and fresh grief. Praying for God’s grace for you in the days ahead.

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    1. I love Luci Shaw’s “ladder poem.” Thanks for taking time to share your thoughts, Barbara. Funny you should mention the jolt about “forgetting” to visit Mum, because it happened again yesterday. Our parents are embedded in muscle memory, I guess.

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