A Moment of Clarity

Her number lights up the face of my phone as I slide my finger across the glass to answer the call.

“Mom, I think Audrey has an ear infection, I need to run her to the doctor, can you watch the twins for an hour or so?”

“Of, course, you can Venmo me later.”

“Ha, ha, thanks Mom, I’ll drop them off on my way to the doctor.”

“See you in a few minutes honey.”

When the twins enter the house it’s as if the sun has broken through the clouds, your favorite song came on the radio, and the sound of laughter fills the once quiet space. It’s opulent, like a spring rain, which I’ve never been able to adequately describe. 

With Cora on my hip, Sienna in Larry’s arms, we move our little entourage outside to enjoy a break in the rain. Cora and Sienna run to the oversized tree swing. It’s round, with a woven middle, and holds a bushel of kids. Standing there watching identical toddlers giggle with glee as I gently push the circular contraption is contagious. It’s also sort of calming, as my eyes follow the rhythmic motion of the swing, their sweet smiles, four small hands grasping the ropes for stability. The only thing going through my head is gratitude for the enormous privilege of this precious view.

Peace is the beauty of life. It is sunshine. It is the smile of a child, the love of a mother, the joy of a father, the togetherness of a family. It is the advancement of man, the victory of a just cause, the triumph of truth. Menachem Begin

Sienna says, “oplesaas Gammie?”

I bend down and lift her from the swing, “What do you want sweat pea?”

“Oplesaas?”

“Hummm?”

Clearly she wants something to eat so I dig through the duffel bag Julie packed with snacks for the girls.

I don’t mean to brag but when I pulled out a small container of applesauce she gave me a standing ovation. Have you ever been caught doing something totally mundane, when someone comes along, and makes you feel like a genius? Me either, until I became a grandparent. 

Truth be told, being a grandma is as close as we ever get to perfection. The ultimate warm sticky bun with plump raisins and nuts. Clouds nine, ten, and eleven. Bryna Nelson Paston

Placing Sienna in her high chair, I grab a small spoon, and remove the foil top from the container. The gentle motion of gathering the sauce on the spoon and bringing it gently to her mouth assaults my senses. The recollection is so powerful, I’m suspended in time, the motion of my hand pauses, but I can’t halt the memory, or the tears. 


The things I don’t understand about this life are vast indeed but sometimes I get a glimpse into the eternal nature of humanity. This life is so intertwined with those who came before us, it’s impossible to tease the strands apart, or consider living outside this colorful schema. Today I actually feel the unbreakable cord that connects me to not only my children, but to my mother, and those who came before, maybe even all who are yet to arrive.

There is something indestructible about physical memories. Don’t you think? They stay vacuumed packed as if winter sweaters under the bed until you need them. If I run from the image slipping around me like a warm blanket I might be avoiding the very thing I need to understand?

Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides. Lao Tzu

Maybe we’re only obligated to hang on, as if life is an enormous swing, reaching for the rope so you won’t be thrown into the great abyss. The thrill of the swing mixed with the terror of falling off is a good metaphor for life. My most poignant memories are often knitted with strands of intense emotions which only serve to strengthen the impact when they resurface. 

Laboring towards death, in her final days, I sat next to my Mom for hours. She loved being in her big blue chair in the living room and in a small way this was how she continued to participate in life. She was past any interest in television or even small talk. It was near the end, but I didn’t know the signs, instead I sat there, panic wedged in my chest, eyes begging her to stay. The truth is I didn’t know how to let go because I couldn’t imagine life without her.

Children are the anchors that hold a mother to life. Sophocles

I remember grabbing the applesauce out of her refrigerator, reaching for a small spoon, ripping the foil off the container. I was desperate, I wanted to make her comfortable, surely eating something soft would solve everything. If only it were so simple. 

I gathered a small amount of sauce on the spoon, gently slipped it between her chapped lips, letting the spoon rest in the container while I waited an eternity for her to swallow. I was as careful and slow with Mom as I am with Sienna. Listening to her labored breath, watching her gentle smile, wiping the sauce from her lips with a cloth, this moment is etched in my mind. 

All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother. Abraham Lincoln

It was as if time stood still and a sacredness filled the room. We both felt it. I could see it in her eyes, the light filtering in through the window, as if God were right there, his knees caked with mud from the garden. He was with us because her time was drawing to a close. It was a wondrous moment of peace and clarity.

I believe I cried, like I am now, for the dignity of spooning love into the souls of our beloved, carefully, gently, respecting the commonality of this motion, across the world, throughout time, a maternal gesture that has no end.

She is with me, her aged hand resting on mine, gently guiding the spoon into Sienna’s rosy mouth, and for a brief moment, the veil of time has been lifted, as if the groom were bending down to kiss his bride. I feel it, pure, simple, agape love.

The love of a mother is the veil of a softer light between the heart and the heavenly Father. Samuel Taylor Coleridge


I’m Living in the Gap, drop by anytime, we’ll eat oplesaas. If you enjoyed this piece please share with your followers! Thank you, I’ll Venmo you later!

Anecdotes:
  • Agape is selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love. 
  • “Parents were the only ones obligated to love you; from the rest of the world you had to earn it.” Ann Brashares
  • “I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.” Mother Teresa
  • The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living. Marcus Tullius Cicero
  • “There must be a stronger foundation than mere friendship or sexual attraction. Unconditional love, agape love, will not be swayed by time or circumstances. ” Stephen Kendrick

6 Comments

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  1. Dear Cheryl,Thank you for another well written blog that touched my heart. Your beautiful description of the spoon touching the lips of both your granddaughter and your mother really spoke to me, as I’ve had both experiences in the last year. Truly we are “living in the gap”.Hope you are back on fb someday- miss you!Gail

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  2. Hi! I started reading this blog entry, and I confess, after the first paragraph or so I thought, hmm, a tome about the joys of grandparenting (yawn.) I chuckled at the thought of being Venmo’d for the privilege of helping a loved one and hanging with the grandkids. Soon, however, my eyes started drifting closed, so I skipped ahead and glanced at the authors of the quotes interspersed throughout. I immediately settled on one of my all-time favorites, Samuel T. Coleridge. Yes! I could read, write and think about the brilliant author of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (an inspiration for many, Iron Maiden included), the source of the dream laden mystical writing of Kubla Kahn and Xanadu (awesome Rush tune!) Yes, Coleridge, the opium addicted poet long before opioids became a crisis.But no, Gail brought me back to reality with “this one touched me.” I guess I had to read the whole thing. So, what constitutes good writing. Coleridge states “Poetry is the best words in the best order.” I believe good writing, or good art of any form, is something that touches or connects with the reader/ viewer/ listener. I confess, for the second time this month, an art form brought a tear to my eye.The first was a viewing of a video for a song, the Belfast Child by the Simple Minds. Watching and listening stirred a lot of emotions, though I confess I am not an expert on “The Troubles” (the 30-year conflagration in Northern Ireland.)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNzuW5LzI6cThe second was the description of you spooning food on the lips of your dying mother. The imagery and emotion really struck a chord. It brought back powerful memories, flooding me with a crescendo of feelings. Pass the Kleenex. Take a bow. Well done.And the song? Well, from Gail….https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0BUsDf0dxYI initially thought it was suspect, because your blog concerned a mom (you) and her granddaughter. However, with deeper thought, clearly your feeding your granddaughter brought about a spiritual reunion of your mother and her daughter.Thanks

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  3. Thank you Gail for \”living in the gap\” with me these past few months. It appears our lives have many parallel circumstances, knowing I am not the only one tying to keep it all together is comforting, and pleasing at the same time. I'm not alone in this journey and that makes it all worth it. Miss you…

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  4. Hi Mike, I absolutely love the honesty that came in the beginning of your comment, \”eyes drifting closed, so I skipped to the comments and quotes,\” Larry often claims much the same reaction to many of my stories! Good to know you're a Coleridge fan, I had no idea he was an opium addict. I have much to learn about the writers I admire and blatantly quote in my blog. Thank goodness Gail dragged you back to reality for a second run through. As I told Gail, I feel so much less alone when someone connects to the emotions and experiences I share in my writing. It seems that most of us in this \”stage of life\” are dealing with aging parents, children in pursuit of adventure, and grand babies. Thoroughly enjoyed your thoughts Mike, thank you, and by the way I loved the song suggestion – Mother and Child reunion! Perfect.

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