Mama

It occurred to me a few days ago that while I’ve mentioned on social media what’s been going on with our family, I haven’t written a blog post about it. And I know that I don’t have to write a blog post about it – there certainly aren’t any rules about this sort of thing – but it feels strange not to mention it on the blog since, for over ten years now, this is where I’ve documented such a big chunk of our family life.

So.

On Monday, June 27th, after several days in ICU, my sweet mama passed away and met Jesus face-to-face. We rejoice that she is whole and free.

And I said this on Facebook last week, but I think it’s worth saying again: Mama was a true Southern lady, a devoted wife, an incomparable mother and grandmother, and a loyal friend. Her relationship with the Lord was deep and rich and real. She was one of a kind and loved by many.

I’m so grateful that she was ours.

*****

There’s so much about the last week and a half that I’m not ready to write about yet. There’s so much that I’m still processing. There’s also the ever-increasing realization that even though I am so relieved that Mama isn’t suffering – even though I find great comfort and peace from knowing that she’s with Jesus – there’s a grieving process out in front of me, and I have to move through it.

And since we’re talking about it, I’ll tell you the number one thing I’ve learned about that process so far: grief is weird.

Seriously. It’s the craziest thing. One minute I’m fine, I’m cooking supper, I’m laughing at something somebody said, and the next minute I’m in tears because there’s a mama talking to her daughter on an HGTV show, and there’s something about the inflection of her voice that reminds me of my own mama.

So as far as recounting everything that happened in the hospital, as far as trying to put some big shiny perspective on this particular encounter with loss, I’m nowhere near ready.

But here’s what I can tell you without a second’s hesitation: in the middle of our family’s heartbreak, the Lord has been so gracious.

In the middle of our family’s heartache, the body of Christ has loved us and comforted us and rallied around us and prayed for us and shown up for us.

And the personal nature of all that love and care – from the Lord and from His people – it’s been a game-changer, y’all. It has ministered to our family in ways that are difficult for me to describe. Because seeing how people reached out to Daddy – watching how folks have cared for him and for us – it has been such a testimony to the power of community and investing in other people and putting down some relational roots. I believed it before, of course. I’ve even written about it a little bit.

But now? OH. I CANNOT QUIT TALKING ABOUT IT.

I will talk about it forever, I think.

Consider yourselves warned.

*****

Here’s what I keep thinking about.

About a month ago Alex and I went to Mama and Daddy’s house for an extra-long weekend. The new book came out on a Tuesday, I drove to Mississippi on Wednesday, and on Thursday I had a book-signing at a store in my hometown. Alex and I got to the book signing a little early, and Sister – who was also in town – brought Mama about a half hour later. Mama was having a hard day with her words (her memory was still so strong, but dementia gave her fits with language and processing), and for most of the afternoon, she just smiled and squeezed people’s hands. At one point she looked at Sister and said, oh-so-slowly, “I wish I could talk.” There were several good conversations going on at the same time, and Mama was frustrated that she couldn’t jump in.

But 48 hours later, Mama had a much better day. She rode with Sister and me to a family reunion in south Mississippi, and even though her speech was still slow, she wasn’t having to fight as much with her words. She was thrilled to be at the reunion, delighted to see different people from Daddy’s side of the family, glad to be able to talk a little bit with some folks she had known for a long time.

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Mama was all about the desserts that day – her sweet tooth was fired up and ready for the homemade cobblers and pies – and after Mama finished her lunch, Sister fixed her a “sampler platter” of sweet treats. It tickled Mama to no end.

After the reunion ended, Sister took us on a little road trip to the community where Mama grew up. Our first stop was the church that Mama attended her whole life, and as we pulled into the parking lot, Mama pointed and very slowly said, “That’s where your daddy and I married.”

We knew that, of course. But since words hadn’t come easy for Mama over the last couple of years, Sister and I were both struck by the fact that out of all the life Mama had lived in that little Methodist church, she made sure to tell us about marrying Daddy. For her, that was the highlight.

As we pulled out of the church parking lot, Mama did her best to narrate our drive down Highway 18 – just like she’d done when Alex and I were with her on the same road a few years before. This time, however, I grabbed my phone and started recording. I have no idea why; as a general rule I am a picture taker, not a video maker, and prior to that Saturday I think I’d probably videoed Mama approximately zero times.

But that day, I did. And I am so thankful.

We kept driving down the highway until we reached the cemetery. Mama wanted to see her parents’ graves, and since the cemetery soil was a little rocky, she couldn’t use her walker. So Sister got on one side of Mama, and I got on the other, and we walked her up a small hill until we reached the spot where Mamaw and Papaw Davis are buried. We stood there for several minutes until a big, dark cloud rolled in.

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And then we giddy-upped (as best we could) back to the car.

As it turned out, though, the rain held off, so Sister drove down to Mamaw and Papaw Davis’ old farm (if you’ve read the new book, you know that land is also known as THE PLACE WHERE MY SINK LIVES). Sister climbed the fence and did a little exploring. Thanks to my broken foot, though, fence-climbing was off limits, so I stayed in the car with Mama. Sister walked around for a few minutes, took a whole bunch of pictures, then hopped back over the fence and jumped in the car just as the rain started to fall. She showed Mama pictures of the old smokehouse, the cattle guard, and the chicken house, and after she put up her phone and started to drive again, she asked Mama if she’d like to see the back part of the land.

“YES,” Mama answered.

Within seconds Sister turned down a little side road that runs around the perimeter of the property, and Mama started to talk again. She pointed out the place where her childhood home used to stand – before Papaw built “the new house” – and she reminisced about life on the farm. When we got to a point where we could see the ponds Papaw used to fish, Sister stopped the car.

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Eventually we looped back to the highway, and we headed home.

It was the last trip we took together.

And it was such a great day.

*****

So now we’re back in Birmingham.

A couple of hours ago I picked up Alex from his first day of football workouts, and as we drove home, he told me all about the fun and the drills and the running and the friends. We were about to turn in our neighborhood when he changed the subject.

“Mama? When was the last time you talked to her?”

I knew that he was talking about Mama.

“It was just a few days before she went in the hospital,” I answered. “I called to check on her and Papa, and I didn’t know if she’d want to talk on the phone or not. But she did. And you know what I’ll remember the most about talking to her that day?”

“What?”

“We were about to hang up when I told her that I loved her. And even though words were a struggle for her, she said, ‘Love. You. Too.’ That was the last thing she ever said to me.”

Alex and I were quiet the rest of the way to the house.

We miss her so much.

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Comments

  1. Thank you so much for sharing these beautiful thoughts. I lost my mother on Dec. 7, 2012 and I know I’ll never quite get over it (but then, why would I?). I was about your age, but I was a bit surprised, thinking that by that point in my life, I’m independent and better able to go on without her…
    I remember the last time she was well enough to leave the house with me and my sister-in-law. But instead of a sentimental journey, we went shoe shopping and had lunch. But it was one of the best days, and my dad told me that evening that she’d said so too. I guess we all have our own love language, and ours was shoes. :)
    Now I often find myself wishing I could ask her about something…a recipe, the name of someone from way back when, or some other vague memory. But I know also she’s still with me, helping in ways should never could when she was physically here with us.
    God bless you.

  2. Cherie Cole says:

    Sophie, I am so sorry for your loss. I was in the middle of reading your new book when I read it on social media. You’ve been in my thoughts. Hugs.

  3. Julie Howell says:

    I am so sorry Sophie! Your post made me cry. I enjoyed hearing about your sweet mama in your books! I will be praying for you and your family. I am so glad you got to have those last sweet moments with her!

  4. Kristen says:

    I know it couldn’t have been easy to write this post, but we are all so grateful that you did! What a beautiful tribute to your sweet mother. I’m so sorry for your hurt and loss. May the Comforter be so near…

  5. sondra spencer says:

    Praying God comforts you in the days to come, and sweetens you mind with the wonderful memories of such a special love. God bless you and your family.

  6. Oh Sophie! This is beautiful. A perfect way to honor your sweet mama. You are right, grief is WEIRD. And i find we are not done with it until it is done with us. We lost my granny in March, and it’s just been really hard to get used to not having her anymore.

    But there is a unique and wonderful comfort in grieving with the hope of seeing loved ones again, and that is a beautiful gift. It stirs such gratitude in my heart. Praying for you and your family as you navigate the road of grief, and praying the day comes SOON that we get to meet our sweet Savior and reunite with loved ones in paradise! Love you!

  7. Stacey says:

    I’m so sorry, Sophie. I’ve had you in my thoughts and prayers over the past few weeks. I wrote you an email a while ago about my Mother. She has MSA and there’s no treatment. Grief IS truly weird! I feel like I’m in a fog most of the time.
    Thank you for sharing this with us. It is beautiful and you have helpful!

  8. Dear Sophie, I am heartbroken for your loss. I have loved reading about your family and their faith. Jesus is so good to us, especially in the hard times. I wouldn’t know what to do without him. My prayers for you are for comfort, peace, and great memories that warm you like a good hug. God bless your entire family – especially your Daddy. Keep writing and sharing and we’ll keep praying. You are a blessed woman to have come from such a family of caring hearts.

  9. My heart continues to be full of sadness. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. The picture of the three of you speaks volumes. What a wonderful snapshot of that time. My deepest symapthies to Sister too.

  10. Julie McGirk says:

    Sophie, I feel like I know you after reading your first two books and your blog for so many years. My Dad’s side of the family were from the south. When I read the stories in your books about your family I was flooded with memories of my grandmother and her sisters and cousins and the times I had the blessing of enjoying their southern hospitality. I am so sad to hear about the loss of your mama. I have been praying for you and your family since you shared that she was in ICU and will continue to do so. The picture you shared of her prayer journal on twitter was such a testament to her faith and love for Jesus and her family and friends and her faith to pray for all of you. My Mamommie was my prayer warrior. I know she prayed for me every day of my life until she went home to Jesus. At her Celebration of Life service I shared that every time I heard the song Somebody’s Praying by Ricky Skaggs I thought of Mamommie. I hope when you have a moment you can listen to the song if you have not heard of it and remember your mama praying for you. I hope it can bring you some comfort in your season of mourning. I can only hope that when Jesus calls me home that I leave a legacy like your mama has. Blessings to you and your family. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeBMcASoBak

  11. My heart goes out to you. You will laugh again. I’m new to your blog and love it.

  12. Sallie Baker says:

    Loved this. Yes, grief IS weird, and quite a journey. Lots of twists and turns….ups and downs.
    Finished Eunice last night… Wonderful. Praying for you and your family, as you will be in a fog for a while.

  13. Dearest Sophie, I’m so very sorry to hear of the passing of your mama. There is nothing in life that really prepares anyone for that, but I’m thankful that the Lord is your comfort. Thank you for sharing with us on your blog. I was touched and teary-eyed reading your sweet words. I’ll be praying for you and your family.

  14. Meg L. says:

    Dear Sophie, I am so sorry for your loss. You write so beautifully and express yourself so well. My mother too, suffered dementia before we lost her and she joined my dad in paradise with our Lord. So glad you had those special moments recently that are truly gifts from above. I remember before my mom went, there were a couple of special moments, when the mom was able to express herself like the old times and my family and I rejoiced in those gifts from above. As you grieve it helps to be able to reflect on that and take comfort from all the special memories. Take care of yourself. Thank you for all your sharing and reflecting.

  15. Sophie, Your on my heart and in my prayers.(((hugs)))

  16. Lisa Bingham says:

    I am just so sorry Sophie! What a blessing to have a Godly mother! I wish there were a way to avoid having to grieve terrible loses. Praying that God meets you where you are in each step.
    I just finished your book and cannot even express how deeply it touched me. That book was a GIFT to me! Thank you! I have been so much more intentional with my conversations and encouragement to all the young people in my life. I see their sweet hearts in a whole new light now.
    Take care.

  17. I am so very sorry for your loss. Incredibly sorry. Processing loss, and life, is so hard and the rollercoaster of emotions seems to drain us the most. My husband was diagnosed with leukemia two years ago, at 41. The prognosis wasn’t good. He has since went through two stem cell transplants that took us away from our children during his treatment. We have experienced the loss of life as we knew it, months separated from our children and our home, and death literally staring us down…and yet…here, in the midst of the paralyzing pain and fear, I have never seen God so clearly. Our community, the nurses, other patients, and strangers have been the most real representation of the hands and feet of Christ that I have ever known. I will never be able to take away, or comprehend, all the blessings that this time of trial in our life has given us. Funny how that works, isn’t it? Before this illness my life was great and I believed God was pretty awesome too. Why wouldn’t he be? However, NOW, in the midst of unbelievable pain and anxiety, I KNOW that God is beyond awesome, beyond Holy, and gives us blessings and mercy beyond my comprehension. How gray would my life have been, in this unbelievable world filled with color, had I never had the opportunity to see through my now cleared eyes?

  18. Mollie A says:

    My deepest condolences. May God be with you and your family during this difficult time.

  19. Melissa says:

    so very sorry for your loss, but praising God with you that she’s healed now, and for those precious moments you had together with your sister and your mama.

  20. Prayers for you and your loved ones as you walk through these days that are, as you describe, so unpredictable. May God continue to bring beautiful memories to your mind.

  21. Jennifer says:

    Sophie, sharing your heart and writing is such a blessing to so many of us. Praying for all of you.

  22. Alison says:

    So sorry for your loss! Sounds like your Mama was an awesome lady. What a touching and sweet post!

  23. โ€œI wish I could talk.โ€ My mama said that for years. She was a woman who talked out loud to hear what she was thinking. No wonder she was confused. It was awful. I’m sorry for your hurt.

  24. I wish I could say something profound and comforting, but please know you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. I know how much you and everyone she knew will miss your sweet Mama.

  25. Kelly Davis says:

    Such beautiful, and precious memories. My heart hurts for you, but rejoices at your peace, and the knowledge that she is with Jesus. Prayers for your family.

  26. Oh, Sophie, the loss of a Mother is one of life’s most difficult things. My Mom died suddenly from a massive stroke 8 years ago. A precious older lady said something to me at that time that I shall never forget. She said, “you will never get over this but you will get through it.” What profound words! And, I did get through it but I’m not over yet. Hugs!

  27. Kim clark says:

    I’m just learning that your mama has gone on to glory. I’m so sorry for your loss, but grateful for the blessed assurance that you will see her again! Thank you for sharing.

  28. Oh Sophie, what a sweet & poignant tribute to your wonderful Mama. I grieve and rejoice with you, praise His holy name that we know where she is today. ๐Ÿ’›โœจ You are so right that grief is just weird; it’s like an ocean we cross. It’s deep, sometimes rough, sometimes calm, sometimes loud, sometimes quiet, and just when you think you’ve made it across a big wave slaps you in the face & reminds you that there’s still much water to get over. I’m still mourning an aunt & grandmother, 7 & 8 years respectively, I’ll make to the shore eventually. What’s the quote, how wonderful to have someone who makes saying goodbye so difficult? ๐Ÿ’—

  29. Sam Randall says:

    Oh Sophie, I just want to pass on my love and prayers to you all.. This is such a beautiful tribute to your Mama. I was so sorry when I saw your Instagram and Facebook posts… Your faith is an inspiration. Thank you for helping me with mine. Love from Rocky, Qld, Australia.

  30. Prayers for your healing๐Ÿ˜˜

  31. Bill Rigby says:

    What a sweet, sweet story! Ouida was a jewel. Of course, you know that already. Always remember what a priceless “road trip” you and sister had hitch your mom that day. It will always put a smile in your face.

  32. Paula Aspacher says:

    Sophie,
    I am so sorry for your loss. My 93 !/2 year old father died on March 8, 2016. He had had dementia for about 7 years. The last 2 were the worst. He could speak but really wanted to just shake his head yes and no. And many other things that were so hard to take with his decline. I had the honor of being able to be home with him when he went on hospice and organizing it and then the last 6 days of his life. I live in Franklin TN and he lived on his farm in MI. He was so sweet and all he could tell us was “I love you, I love you, I love you.” I cared for him round the clock and barely left his side. the honor was mine. Enjoy your memories of your sweet momma! She sounds precious!!!! Heaven is full of angels!!

  33. Melissa says:

    You will continue to be surprised at the things that make you weepy…any hymn with a verse about heaven ruins my mascara on Sunday mornings, even four years later (and these four years without my mama have simultaneously been an eternity and the blink of an eye.) Thank you for sharing your sweet memories of her, may you continue to find comfort in those memories as you process your grief and loss.

  34. So sorry for your loss. And yes, grief is weird, and lasts much longer than we expect it to.

  35. Kate Jaco says:

    Wow, what a powerful last few weeks. I’m so thankful for the good days you had with your mom and sister. And thankful for the community your dad and your family have. God bless you.