Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My 40 Days Are Done

Beware: Strange post follows.

Yesterday was the 40th day post-mortem of my mother. In an attorney’s office, I officially “relinquished possession,” as one person described my seven years of watching over my mother and her affairs.

Forty days is spiritually significant. So is the sum of seven years.

Forty is the time of testing. It’s the number of the days of rain that caused the Flood on which Noah’s Ark sailed alone. It’s the number of years for wandering in the desert without a home. It’s the length of days allotted to the devil in the temptation of Christ. It has been my time of testing.

Seven is the time of completion. In seven “days” God made the earth and saw that it was good. The walls of Jericho fell after the Israelites’ seventh trip around. A duration of seven is used in Biblical prophesy over and over to signify when an event will be completed. For me, the seventh year, when my mother died, is when my work is finished.

Now this chapter of my life has ended. I woke up at 4:30 in the morning thinking of that. I’m free, or I will be, when God has healed my hurt. In one fell swoop, I wrote a long, releasing poem (a section of which follows), and as I finished, there landed outside the window, like a God shot, a spotted towhee I'd never seen before (I found the above photo on the Web). My side of the street is clean, for now at least.

(A selection from)
In the Halls of Justice

They ask me why she left so little
There must be more, and if there’s not
I am blamed for having squandered
or absconded with the lot.

May they now get their fair share
of all the treasures left behind:
the love of books, the love of trees,
the satisfaction found in work,

The child’s faith that in God’s world
all is right, and all forgiven,
the precious laughter she was given
when the intellect was gone,

The certain knowledge she had sinned
but had atoned and now walked lightly
on a journey filled with hope,
the thankful heart, who thanked her helpers

On her deathbed in those awful hours,
who looked at me with shining joy
when she was just a bag of bones
and said how wonderful it was—

Though what it was, I’ll never know
unless I walk the road she walked.
My share is this: I stood as witness
to her effort in the final task

God put before her, and I saw
my mother go where no one goes
except the bravest: into battle,
stripped of weapons, to face a foe

Who killed her slowly.
I stayed to watch each bitter slice

Carve away each piece of her.
I heard her shriek. I heard her laugh.
I wrote down every word she spoke.
I watched as her unfailing faith

Renewed her strength each morning.
I leave them in the Halls of Justice
seeking justice from my mother.
I leave them, far, far richer than

They are, because she gave me
certainty that though I’ve sinned
I have atoned and now walk lightly
on a journey filled with hope.


Lorenzo said...

Chris, I am very moved as I read your post and, especially, your poem today. Somehow I hear your soft footsteps walking down and out of those Halls of Justice.

RNSANE said...

Good heavens, Chris, why does it have to be this way? I hope, when my mother dies, there will be no haggling. It is just my brother and myself. All she owns has been disposed of and her remaining assests are quickly being devoured by her stay in extended care. In the last year, because I was able to do so subsequent to my job loss, I went to Georgia four times and stayed an entire month each visit. Three times, I had no idea, the fourth time I would find her as I did, post-stroke and not even aware of who I am. I am grateful, now, that I had all those weeks with her when I did. Those were wonderful days when I was able to care for her and talk to her and repay her, in same way, for all she gave to me.
I am so pleased that my brother and his wife moved back to the Atlanta area in December and are close enough to oversee her care at Gwinnett Extended Care. Charley has done amazingly well at going to see her a couple of times a week, though she doesn't know who he is, most of the time. I'm proud of him.
Hopefully, we will have nothing to fight about.
Your poem is right sad, though.

Karen said...

This is the most wonderful poem, Chris, and the most wonderful feeling! Having done the right thing...I think you, yourself, have fought the good fight, have finished the race. What you have done is holy.

the walking man said...

Forty days
the vultures circled
the carcass below relieved
for the meat
that might be there,
and not one
was spent in grief.

Brian Miller said...

i am glad you found such a release and there is significants in those of the verse saddened much left behind that is not material but some may never realise...i am glad you were there for her as she walked into that battle...know that was important...

Scott said...

full circle, a gift from mother to daughter, ONLY because daughter chose to stay and receive...

TechnoBabe said...

You are in a good place. You did what was in your heart to do for your mother for many years. No matter what the others did. That is why you are letting your big toe tentatively feel the newly found cool waters of freedom. Jump in.

Jess Mistress of Mischief said...

And the only answer that comes to the beauty that that poem expresses...


The Bug said...

Well, that one tag says it all: unadulterated selfishness. Sheesh. It boggles my mind. I hope my brother & I are able to be civil when the time comes.

But what a lovely healing poem!

Syd said...

How hard it must be to not have resentment for those who are wanting to take. And yet they gave so little, if nothing. I am glad that I didn't have to face that with the death of my parents.

Beth Niquette said...

I am so sorry. This is one of the hardest things to walk through--especially when you are a caregiver, or main person. People do NOT understand what that is all about unless they've been through it themselves.

God bless you, my dear--with peace and small bits of joy. And may those who have not walked in your shoes be silenced.

Marion said...

How is it that yours and my life are so similar? Nobody came and sat with my mom as she lay dying, other than me. But they all wanted their share or more than, just as soon as she was dead. You, at least, got to wait 40 days before the questions began about what was left. That kind of thing began in my mother's room, just hours after she died.

I've never seen anything or anybody so completely selfish and yes, corrupt, as my family was when my mom died.

Totalfeckineejit said...

Powerful,triumphant,sad, lovely and brim full of hope and new dawns.

Magpie said...

Chris, your wonderful view of the world and how it all works is amazing. You are the richer for the time spent with your mother in these last years. Your journey was not easy, but your reward is great...with more to come. Leave the jackals to do what jackals do, and "walk lightly on a journey filled with hope".

Gwei Mui said...

Powerful indeed in your openess, in your selflessness, such a trying challenging ordeal for both of you.
I am glad that you have found release and some comfort and healing in words. Sadly tragedy and mortality seem to illicit the worst in human nature not the best - that has been my personal experience also.
But you know and your Mother knows and that is what counts and above all you rose above it all and them.
You are a woman to be admired - I salute you

e said...

Dear Chris,

My mother's brother and sister were weird after she died, too. It really is not about stuff. The hardest part is learning to stay away from people you once may have trusted. I wish you clarity and peace. Your poem is sad but very true.

Monkey Man said...

What a wonderful outlook. Leaving the vultures to pick at bones while you retreat satiated on the goodness you were given is such a healthy behavior. Thanks for your open, honest sharing.

Dianne said...

This is a holy sacrament.

I am well, the same.

You are transformed, and resting...


poetry Thurs? conference Fri?

Teri and the cats of Furrydance said...

Again, your words bring home how the journey is different for all of us, but how your words touch each one in a unique way. May your journey be healing from here...