Saturday, December 22, 2012


I wrote this last week, a few hours before my mother died. I hope you’ll indulge me, because it has to do with writing—with how writers process things—and with books and the way they enrich our relationships.


She lies on the bed, fighting to breathe.
I sit beside her, my laptop on my knees.
Through the window I see a steely-grey sky
and a bare-limbed tree trembling in a cold winter breeze.

Do writers feel these moments more acutely?
The death of a mother, a lover, a friend?
The birth of a child, the milestones?
The weddings, the funerals?

Or do we merely record them when others don’t?
We chronicle events. We take ownership.
We scoop up the tiny noises,
the small details—

then we scrape them and shape them and give them back to the world.
People read our words and say: Yes. That’s exactly how it was.
That’s exactly how I felt.

I play it out—this death of the woman who gave me birth…
and who gave me so much more.

This woman who gave me my love for thunderstorms.

And lightning bugs.

And books.

This insecure, shy woman who
traveled around the world, with six kids in tow,
to live in Taiwan and teach others about God.

I play it out—listening to each labored breath,
watching the shadow of death
steal across her waxy face.

I string words together, putting images side-by-side,
shifting them around. Pushing here. Pinching there.
Until I make a picture from her life,
teasing out the meaningful things,
the happy things, the sad things.

The lonely things.

She carried many burdens.
Eight children. Six living.
The living ones costing her the most.

So many times we scribbled ugly things,
with heavy, black, permanent ink, 
on the pages of her soul.

And yet she managed to move past her own worries and wounds to love us.

She bought me my first computer,
back when computers cost as much as cars.
She didn’t have much money.
It was a sacrifice.

Along with the computer came three “how to” books and a command to write.

She always wished she’d written a book.

She could have.
She was brilliant,
and brilliantly witty,
this woman who lies now, wasted and worn.

Oh, the books she could have written.
But she didn’t have a mother to encourage her.
To push her. To rejoice over every paragraph and declare it a thing of great beauty.
To wonder what was wrong with those silly editors, who kept sending rejections.

I had such a mother.
She invested in my writing in a thousand different ways.

First reader.

Faithful fan.

Her breaths grow shallow.
I know she’ll never wake again.
She’ll never speak or hold a pen.
Or share books with notes scrawled in the margins.

From as far back as memory goes,
She and I passed books back and forth.
We held some of our deepest conversations in the white space,
Wrangling with ideas and applications.
I’ll miss that communion most of all.

One day last week
I walked into her room
and she didn’t know me.
I used to call you Mamsie,
I said. And you called me Phronsie.
Then she remembered the stories we had shared.

And now we draw to the close of her adventure,
of her long life, of her wild story—
full of sorrow, full of glory.
We turn the final page.
Come, Lord Jesus,

Sally Apokedak
Sally Apokedak is an associate agent with the Leslie H. Stobbe Literary Agency. She's in the process of building a dynamite list of authors. She is also active in the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, the American Christian Fiction Writers, and Toastmasters International.


Nicole said...

Amazing, touching, profound, Sally. So sorry for your loss but heaven's gain. Thank you, Sally.

Bethany said...

Oh, Sally. What a beautiful celebration of her life. Crying as I read this...thank you for letting us enjoy a glimpse of your precious relationship. May you continue to reflect on those precious and costly moments, looking forward to greeting her once more.

Kathleen said...

Thank you for this. A friend posted the link on FB... I ask myself some of the same questions about writing. I think others don't always think as much but when they read the right words, those words express what is in their hearts but they have been unable to get out.

Martha W. Rogers said...

You brought back the precious memories of sitting by the the bedside of my own mother during the last days of her life. I journaled it all and relive her life now and again. Thank you for sharing your own journey and her life. Such wonderful memories we have. Remember, our loss is heaven's gain and it's not good-bye, but so long because we'll see them in a little while.

sally apokedak said...

Thanks for your comments. I appreciate you all.

sally apokedak said...

Thanks for your comments. I appreciate you all.

Ane Mulligan said...

I was on an airplane, returning home from my mother's funeral. I pulled out my laptop and write a story, which later turned into a novel. My story and her story, intertwined, to honor her. Yes, I'd say we writers do chronicle life differently. But we do it with what we are ... writers write.

Daphne Woodall said...

Sally you described the feeling in the room as you sat with your mom and I was with my sister there 34 days ago, experiencing similar thoughts as slowly over 72 hours I tended to my sister alone. Her voice gave way to groans and soon silence as I prayed she would let go. As I wiped her face I had visions of my mom who passed almost 40 yrs earlier and realized how their facial features were very similar. It's hard to watch as life evaporates, but comforting to know she's in better hands now. Thanks for sharing.

Lorretta at Dancing on the Dash said...

Oh Sally, we write because we must obey the impulse to loose this thing that MUST be birthed. And so you gave life in the midst of death....a tribute and so much more than a memorial. You recorded a lifetime of love wrapped up in a single moment, built an altar and made a sacrifice that is most pleasing to God and to your readers today. Thank you for this gift. Blessings. said...

Sally, I had to stop to wipe the tears away so I could read this post. Your mother's encouragements were well founded. It's never easy to see such a chapter in life come to an end. My prayers are with you and your family as you work through the grief laced with Christ's hope, such a glorious hope, indeed. Thanks for spilling your tears on the page and sharing in such a moving way. Wade Webster

Vicki Watson said...

But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
- C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

Remarkably similar experience to mine with my own mother. I sat by her bedside as she died in 2006. I lost one of my best friends and greatest encourager and not a day passes that I don't miss her. I find the C.S. Lewis quote encouraging. They have begun the "Great Story."
God bless,

MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA said...

Dear Sally,

Thank you for your deeply moving words. As I read, my mind flew back to the day I sat by my own mother's bedside as she passed from death to life in 2008. Those memories are indelibly carved on my heart. Some of them have taken the shape of words since then. How blessed we both were to have had mothers who encouraged us!