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.
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.
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 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.