May 7, 1968

…from the archives…

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 Mom all to myself during my lunch break.

I bumped awkwardly down the sidewalk, stopping every ten paces to change the clumsy
cello to the other arm.  A tune passed 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. 


I hitched the
cello closer to my body and broke into an exuberant trot.   Never
before had I seen my dad! in the middle of the school day.  One by one
he had collected 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, staggered–completely stunned. It was only supposed to be a “Very Minor Surgery.”

    “She died very early this morning.”

He picked up the cello and we trudged the two-block trek home.  We had passed two houses on the left when, looking up at him, 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, I saw my First Problem.

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

I didn’t ask for details.  Clearly, what he said was true.  I just didn’t quite know what it had to do with me.

My next impulse was to lighten his load. 

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

shook his head as we continued to walk.  In silence we turned right onto
Greenfield Avenue.  Our heads bowed in surrender to the
heavy weight as we forced our feet forward.  Even with a dozen people inside, the house was as
quiet and still as my father had been. 

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

    “Mom!  I got an A………………” 

My voice broke off as the news dangled in midair. 

~     ~     ~

That night after dinner my father took up Daily Bread, a devotional book, to read that day’s entry:

Trust in Him at all times, O people;
Pour out your heart before Him.

~ Psalm 62:8


13 thoughts on “May 7, 1968

  1. My mom had a D & C the day before she died.  The stress from that surgery put her body into a coma in the middle of the night; she died sometime early that morning in the hospital. Her death mystified the medical community.  The autopsy showed that she had an undiagnosed auto-immune disorder, what I think today would be called lupus.  My brother, a physician, found out the family history of two of Mom’s brothers and believes that she also had Addison’s disease, also undiagnosed. 

  2. It is dear of you to share your loss with us.  We remember with you and trust that God care for you.Now, does anyone in this generation have makers or symptoms for either of these diseases?

  3. words cannot express my sadness at your loss all those years ago.  May your mother’s memory be eternal!”With the saints give rest,to your servant who has fallen asleep.”

  4. Oh my.  This made me feel such a heavy sorrow for that little girl coming home with her cello.  When I was in 5th grade, my mother discovered a malignant melanoma in a mole on her back and had pretty radical surgery to remove all the cancerous tissue surrounding it.  Her 10 day stay in the hospital was frightening, and I became very conscious of my parents’ mortality from that time onward.  Praying peace to you.

  5. Oh Carol! How sad! My own (little) sister lost her husband just two years ago, she has three little ones.  The loss is devastating.Thank you for sharing this story.

  6. Oh Carol, the tears are streaming as I type.  What a beautiful picture of your Mom.  40 years.  I realized with a small shock that this July is the 30th anniversary of my Mom’s death.  As you say, sometimes it seems like yesterday.Blessings to you my dear friend.  Sandy

  7. How old is she in that picture? She’s beautiful. Very moving story–thanks for sharing it. It’s a good reminder for those of us blessed to have our mothers still with us to be extra thankful for them this Sunday!

  8. Pingback: Five Seven | A Living Pencil

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