May 7, 1968

The lunch bell rang at 11:30.  My fifth-grade teacher dismissed the class. I put my sweater on, picked up my cello and navigated my way through the crowded hallway.  As I crossed from the dark interior to the bright sunshine my mind swept through the corners of the morning looking for a scrap of a story to tell my mom. Since Danny had moved up to Jr. High, I had my mom all to myself during lunch.

I moved slowly down the sidewalk, stopping every ten paces to change the clumsy cello to the other arm.  A tune went through my head and came out with a hum. Turning left at Elizabeth Street, I looked up and saw my dad a block ahead at the edge of the school property.  He stood still as a sentinel, shoulders slumped. 

“Dad!”

I hitched the cello closer to my body and broke into an exhuberant trot.   Never before had I seen my dad in the middle of the school day.  One by one he had taken my six older siblings out of their classes, had broken the news to them and had brought them home.  For this final breaking, he waited for me to come to him. Out of breath, I set the cello down and gave him a hug. 

“How’s Mom?  Did you bring her home from the hospital?”

His face was tired granite.

“Honey, I have some bad news.”

It wasn’t his solemnity that struck me; it was the absence of any movement.  I looked up with questioning eyes.

“Carol, Mommy is in heaven with Jesus.”

I stared at him, completely stunned.

“She died very early this morning.”

He picked up the cello and we began the two block trek towards home.  We had passed two houses on the left when I protested.

“Wait, Daddy.  You said it was bad news.  But if she’s in heaven with Jesus, that’s good news, isn’t it?”

For the first time the muscles in his face moved.  He smiled down at me wordlessly.  While I couldn’t comprehend that my Mom was dead, I could see the grief that had already moved into his eyes; I could sense him pulling into himself.   Flitting back to my own concerns, my mind reminded me of a problem.

“But I wanted to tell  Mom that I got an A on my spelling test.”

I didn’t ask for details.  There was something in his demeanor which spoke the truth.  My next impulse was to lighten his load. 

“Daddy, let me carry the cello.  Please, Daddy.  Please…let me carry the cello for you.”

He shook his head as we continued to walk.  We turned right onto Greenfield Avenue in silence.  Our heads bowed in surrender to the heavy weight as we trudged the rest of the way home.  The house was as quiet and still as my father had been. 

As we approached the porch, I bounded up the steps, remembering my news.

“Mom!  I got an A………………”  My voice broke off as the news dangled in midair. 

13 thoughts on “May 7, 1968

  1. Oh, Carol. My eyes burn. My throat has a lump and it is difficult to swallow. I knew from previous posts that you had lost your mother when you were young. Even though this happened, what?, thirty-some years ago, your wording puts me right there with you heaving that cello and announcing the “A.” Grief moves around, but it never leaves. Hugs,Janie

  2. Words escape me. All these events are the fabric of our lives. It’s hard to think of, but God allowed you this as a child to make you the woman you are today. May He be with you each time this day rolls around, with His comfort and grace!
    Brenda

  3. My husband says you have a gift for writing, I agree.
    Why is it that when I’ve had a day of feeling sorry for myself you post something like this?  This is the second time when I’ve been reciting things like “I need a break”, “I’m tired of all of this” etc to myself, that you wrote something that reminds me that life is fleeting and my children are a gift.  Thank you.
    I thought it was interesting that you wanted to help your dad carry the grief and he wouldn’t let you.  How many times my kids want to help carry my grief and I push them away.  In some cases (like this one) the grief may be too much for them and it’s wisdom pushing them away.  But so many times in my life, I’m pushing away out of selfishness. 
    Thank you for allowing us to share in your grief.

  4. Carol–the tears came quickly to my eyes as I finished reading your post.  Maybe you remember me mentioning that my own mother lost her mother when she was ten years old.  She was not told why her mother died or what she died of.  It was a difficult situation. (Interestingly, she found out 30 years later from a friend of the family what her mother had supposedly died of – she was told she went into a diabetic coma.  My sister is highly into our family geneaology and recently received a copy of this death certificate–and that was not the cause of death.  So even after 30 years and to this day my Mom didn’t get the right information.  My sister and I think it not proper to mention these findings to our Mom)  Unlike you, she was second oldest of four girls, the youngest was 5.  She got put into a kind of “young momma” situation, as her oldest sister was not mentally stable and did not take on this role.  Although my mother is a Christian, she has sadly become an easily embittered woman.  I can’t help but think it is because of these early years of her life.  Also, when she was 21, she bore her first child who had Down’s syndrome and cretinism.  Her baby (Diane) died at about age 2.  I can only imagine the grief of not being able to share the birth of your first child with your mother (you know how that felt though!) and then, far worse, to not be able to share the death of your firstborn.   All this said, to say, I am very thankful that the loss of your mother has served to strengthen your faith in the Lord and to not embitter you.  Thank you Lord.

  5. Oh Carol! I am weeping as I type this. Such a poignant story! It must have been difficult for you to go through the rest of your childhood years without her. I am glad you already knew the Lord then.

  6. Tears running down my cheeks….You do indeed have a gift for putting your thoughts into words, and for conveying painful memories with grace.How many times, for how many years did I begin to pick up the phone to call Mom and tell her the news of my day?You lost your Mother ten years before I lost mine. 39 years is a very long time, isn’t it? (I know 29 is..)Blessings to you my friend,Sandy

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