Putting Away Childish Things

img_0363-21Last Thursday, I buried my mother.

My dad offered the family prayer while I stood by her coffin, patting her shoulder and running my fingers through her hair. She clearly wasn’t in her broken body anymore, but it was sacred to me, and I loved touching her hands and face and running my fingers over her thin bruised arms– bruises she gained in her fight to stay alive for me.

After the ‘Amen,’ my Dad and sister leaned in for a final kiss on her cheek. Then everyone stood back as I tied the veil around her lovely chin, kissed her cheeks and hands and gently pulled the sheer fabric over her face– never to be unveiled until Christ comes again. I sunk down for one more moment with my head on her shoulder, her cheek against mine as I left tears on her face.

Last month I wrote about my mother: her humility, her sweetness, her knowledge of the atonement. I was just beginning to understand.

I comprehended a bit more when I walked into my mother’s room on a rainy Saturday night and even in the midst of her death throes she lifted up and smiled at me. The pain was agonizing and rolled in waves like childbirth– the cruel contractions coming closer and closer together as the night progressed. I held her hand and I whispered, “You can go. It’s OK. You can go.” She shook her head, because she knew I needed her a bit longer.

I didn’t understand how much she loved me; I didn’t fathom how much I loved her.

My mother wasn’t old (65), but as as she wrestled to give birth to her eternal self I saw flashes of her as a young woman, as the viviacious mother of my childhood. And I saw that she was just a girl like me, with divine talents but also limitations and insecurities and dreams placed aside for the sake of her children.

Sunday morning, after my mother died and they took her body away (and I can’t write about that– I can’t). I opened the scriptures. My favorite chapters are Moroni 7 and 1 Corinthians 13– the pleas for charity. I read these chapters nearly every week but they were just one more thing I didn’t comprehend. After reading my beloved verses 1-8, I found myself pondering these words:

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a (wo)man, I put away childish things.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
1 Corinthians 13:11-12

I’ve been seeing through a glass darkly, but I am ready to put away childish things. ‘Childish things’ are not giggling and kite flying and sloppy kisses–those are divine– ‘childish things’ are hatred, jealousy, vanity, anger, judgment, impatience… and the precise opposite is “Charity (who) suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”

I have seen Charity. And it is Divine.

My mom didn’t like “Angel Mother” talks, where the speaker describes their flawless mother who never yelled or burnt the toast— I remember many a Mother’s Day when such a talk would drive her to tears with grief over her own inadequacies. But now, I understand where those talks come from…. because now I can only see the things she did right, and I can see her perfect and loving intentions. Everything else just fades into the background. I am so honored to be her daughter. And I don’t feel worthy of her.

At the end of my mom’s life we learned that she’d been ill for the last 15, maybe 20 years. The tumors released massive amounts of cortisol into her bloodstream causing uncontrollable weight gain, depression, pain and exhaustion. Her diagnosis explained so many things—to my mom and to our family. And it’s a gentle reminder that we never know what quiet pain is hidden, the sorrows that the eye can’t see. Everyone has their secret anguish and we must treat each other gently, kindly. Each time I judge someone I later find out how wrong I was.

I was always the little girl who was hurt easily and then built a wall to shield myself from any pain. And at the end of her life she shattered that wall. She healed all my old wounds, and I will spend the rest of my life honoring her gift. Until the last weeks of her life I never acknowledged how her quiet endurance, and for the first time I saw how beautiful she truly is.

Our family had very real, very hard problems. But my mother worked hard, especially in her last few years, to mend old hurts. She apologized even when it wasn’t her fault. She extended love even when it wasn’t reciprocated. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is more real than your computer screen; it is the most real thing on Earth.

“Did you know you are part of a miracle?” she would ask me. She held my hand, smiled and promised, “You have no idea how much happiness is ahead of us. You have no idea how much joy we’ll have in our family in the eternities.” She was pure like a newborn babe—but better, because she’d worked to sanctify herself. My mother did everything she could to prepare her soul to meet God.

We all wanted more time. I wanted a year of doing all the same things but with my heart wide open—with the knowledge I now have of who she really is. I wanted to take her home and let her sit by the pool while the kids do cannonballs and play sharks and minnows. I wanted to weed in the garden and watch her pick ripe red raspberries in August. I wanted one more Halloween, one more Thanksgiving, one more Christmas—each day sweetened with the knowledge of just how precious she is to me.

You’ve heard the plea to appreciate your loved ones so often that it’s almost become cliché. But behind every cliché is something profound. So listen, reach out, heal old wounds, offer apologies and forgiveness. Live with an open and loving heart. Because we don’t know how much time we have and none of us, not one, has enough.

My mother’s heart was sealed to God—I have no doubt of it. But it’s now my turn to drink of the atonement the way my mother did. I am turning to Christ to cleanse me and heal my aching heart, my broken heart. I know He will, I know He can—for I have seen Him, reflected in my mother’s eyes.

About Michelle L.

(Blog Team) never folds laundry and her car is a mess. She runs through the streets of Salt Lake City, UT, takes lots of photos, plays Uno with her five fabulous boys and buys way too many dresses for the little princess. Her husband is the most romantic man in the world because he does all the Costco shopping AND hauls it into the house (sorry to make you jealous girls). She writes at Scenes from the Wild.

39 thoughts on “Putting Away Childish Things

  1. Oh, Michelle. I feel for you. My eyes feel for you, and my arms, and my feelings.

    Thank you for sharing this incredible situation.

    I find that the childish things are those that we have spent so much time on, that actually have no worth to them. But we insist on seeing them as the MOST IMPORTANT THING. Putting them away can be difficult, but guaranteed to be more precious. And as you said, sloppy kisses are divine. There will be alot of them waiting for us all.

  2. I can’t even write a coherent comment– because there is just too much there…

    That was outstanding.

    Simply and utterly beautiful.

  3. Michelle, Thank you for sharing this sacred and painful time with us. Thank you for encouraging us to seek forgiveness in our relationships and to live with open hearts. Yours is a great testimony of Christ’s Atonement. We can be healed… there is hope. My relationships with my parents feel shallow despite efforts in the past. Maybe there is more I can do to show my appreciation for the good in them (while forgetting/forgiving the not as good). Bless your family as you miss your mom.

  4. Michelle – you are an amazing young women with incredible insight. Thank you for your post. I want to express my sympathy, but some how that word seems so empty and shallow today. I wish I had a word that would express so much more. Our earthly journey indeed can lead us closer to our Savior and our Heavenly Father through our trials. Although unable to remain a bit longer, I am sure your Mom felt great strength from your open heart and abundant
    love – and how great the joy will be when you are together as an eternal family.

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  6. Thank you for a beautifully written post. And for the wonderful reminder to love those around us. I especially love your sentence: “Every time I judge someone I later find out how wrong I was.” So true!

  7. My heart goes out to you! You and yours are in my prayers. I am sorry for your loss and astounded by your wisdom and growth.

    The “childish” line – you have it exactly right!

    Love to You!

  8. Michelle, you have GOT to stop making me cry.

    You are a beautiful person inside and out. Thank you for your perfect reminders about the preciousness of family. It’s hard to see the wonderfulness instead of the annyingness sometimes.

  9. Thank you Michelle. I have been following your journey and have appreciated it. I have been dealing with how to reconcile my feelings and what I know I have to do. My father abused me emotionally and physically as a child (not sexually). I have a lot of wounds. A lot of how I parent is the opposite of how he and my mother parented. I guess you could say they showed me a lot of what I didn’t want growing up. That’s not to say there weren’t a lot of good things. But it’s hard when in this last year I found out his temper and attitude is still there. He lashed out at my daughter last year when she was just 3 yrs old for being a 3 yr old. That snapped it for me. I haven’t spoken to him since July of last year.

    I am angry at my mother. She who never protected us growing up. She who often added fuel to his fiery temper. She who instead of embracing me for the ache I still carry – told me I was the problem. That perhaps I need to change myself through therapy. That I shouldn’t question my parents.

    I’m torn – I have always wanted that picture of a family you see in the LDS Church. The one with the big, fun, loving family reunions. The one where generations actually love each other wholeheartedly. It’s hard to reconcile my reality. So I ache because I want my daughters to have grandparents. I ache because I know my mother – despite her issues – wants to be with her grand-babies. I ache because there must be something so insecure about my father that he doesn’t allow himself to feel any remorse for the terror he inflicted on his children, for the controlling megalomanic behavior he enforces on my mother and his children – to this day.

    I ache because I know I must forgive – but I’m scared. I ache because I want to have a warm, loving father – but know that’s not in the cards for me. I ache because I wish it wasn’t that hard to forgive a family member who’s hurt the trust I willingly gave to him as a child. I ache because I feel like I lack the courage you so beautifully display.

    I know what I should do. The Lord has been placing people, talks, lessons in my pathway to show me that I must, must soon forgive. Thank you for showing me how beautiful it can be. I’ll work on mustering up some courage now.

  10. Michelle, WOW. This is life-changing writing. I feel like you’ve opened your chest, scooped out your heart and held it in front of us to see. And it is white, clean and shining–just like your mother.

    We all need this. We’re all imperfect mothers parented by imperfect mothers wishing for something different and not seeing the divinity of what we have. Thank you so very much. May heaven bless you with peace and angels surrounding you during this difficult time.

    And Anon(Daddy issues) hang in there. Christ can heal you even if your parents never change. Bless you for being so honest. I feared letting go of past hurts too, because I somehow felt that I wanted credit for my suffering. If I forgot and forgave it could happen again. The good news is that it doesn’t matter. All will be made right, and it can start today with us turning to Him.

  11. Beautiful. It touched my heart. My mother died still not speaking to me and her death was a relief. It is wonderful to see what can change with Christ, hearts and families can become complete. Thank you and please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.

  12. anon, God bless, honey.

    And Michelle, you’re wonderfully sage to share such important words with us. I hope you can find peace and rest in this next few weeks.

    I hope I get to see you soon, too!

  13. Michelle,

    This was the most insightful and thoughtful post I have ever read on the “Mormon” blog site. I am watching my mother (and father) move into their final chapter in this life. It is sobering to think that my most influential teachers will not physically be here. Thank you for reminding me of some of the important truths that they have shared with me through the years.

  14. Michelle, you are amazing. My thoughts and prayers are with you. It is a horrible thing to loose someone prematurely but what an amazing experience you have turned it into. May you find peace.

  15. Michelle,
    This entry made me think of my own mother’s death a year ago. I had a few of those tender mercy moments when I got to see my mother as she really was – a person who had hopes, dreams, wishes, pain, sadness, and all. Those moments made her death not quite so painful.
    And to Anon (Daddy issues) – I feel your pain. My father was (is) emotionally abusive. My mother wore a mask for so long, trying to pretend it wasn’t happening. This is one reason why that gift of seeing her as she really was is so precious to me. I have struggled with the same issues as you – how do I forgive, how do I get over the pain of not having that ideal family that I so long for? I don’t have all the answers, but I can say this. I had to finally learn that forgiveness is not about saying everything is (or was) okay. I was stuck on thinking that if I forgave, I would have to justify my father’s behavior, and that it would set me up for more hurt. Forgiveness is about finding peace in your own life, despite the harm that others have done to you. My father continues to control, yell, manipulate. But, I have had to find ways to cope, which sometimes means avoiding him in order to protect myself and my children. I have had to let go of the anger and hatred, and I have had to do that many times. It doesn’t all go away at once. But, I have more peace and happiness in my life because of it. I also sometimes feel so jealous of people who have these amazing fathers. I still long for that. But, I also try to remember that I DO have a loving Father. He is my Heavenly Father. He is ALWAYS there for me and knows me better than anyone. And He is there for you too. I promise you that. Abuse often distorts our own image of a loving Father, and it is important to develop a good relationship with our Father in Heaven, despite the dysfunctional relationship with an earthly one. That can bring you more peace than anything else I know.

  16. Thank you for your post. I am sorry about your loss. After reading it this morning I have been thinking about a couple of individuals that I need to forgive and try to understand better.

  17. My thoughts and prayers are with you, Michelle. Thank you so much for sharing this sacred experience so freely and generously. God bless, always.

  18. Thank you so, so very much.

    I am so sorry for your loss. And so grateful that you were willing to so beautifully share what you’ve gained and learned from the situation. What a gift.

  19. Weeping eyes here. So sorry for your loss, you have put is so beautifully and your strength and testimony have strengthened mine.

  20. That was moving and inspiring. Thanks to your mom’s lessons and example, and yours too, I feel compelled to try a little harder to do a little better.

    Your family has shown some incredible examples of the Atonement’s power.

    Thank you.

    And may you continue to feel peace amidst the heartache of your loss.

  21. Anon (Daddy issues)Please read the book “Loving What Is” by Byron Katie It will help you to let go of the hurt and anger you feel and see your father and those around you in a different way. Good Luck.

    Michelle, sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feeling. Very healing.

  22. Hugs, Michelle. I’ve been thinking of you through this time. I don’t have time to read this yet, but I will. I just wanted you to know you’re in my thoughts.

  23. Thank you for sharing this sacred experience with us. I had a similar experience a few months ago when my sister was buried and I saw true forgiveness and the Atonement finally take its toll on twenty aching children. My condolences for your loss and my thanks again for sharing such a beautiful and heart wrenching message.

  24. I’ve been needing a good cry lately but haven’t quite been able to let go and allow myself to have it.

    Thank you for opening that door for me. And for your beautiful words that washed away some of my own sadness.

    I’m sorry about your mom, but I’m glad you shared your feelings about her here. You have given me much to think about.

    =)

  25. What a wondrous post. Thank you for opening your heart when your feelings are still so sensitive. It seems at those times we are best able to communicate intimately.

    Your thought about keeping our hearts open to our family is a good reminder for me as I’m about to spend 2 weeks on vacation with my in-laws. I love them when we’re across the country but staying in the same house it’s another story. I’ll do my best to remember your thoughts as I struggle.

  26. your story and your writing continues to take. my. breath. away.

    I love you dearly, friend. Thank you for sharing your heart. What a gift for all of us, and a way to truly ‘honor your father and your mother.’

  27. A sleepless night got me blog hopping and I discovered your blog. I have to admit this post and the earlier one about your mother was hard for me to read. My mother nearly died a couple months ago and although doing better, she is still very ill. I am sure we do not have a lot of time left with her. It was heart breaking to read your story and to know it will soon be mine. Still, you said a lot of things that I needed to hear right now.

  28. I have tears in my eyes and my heart is aching. I lost my Mom 2 years ago, quite suddenly. At times I wish that I would have had more time or that we had known sooner that she was going. but on the other hand, who wants to see their loved one suffer? I could relate with many things in your post. Thank you for sharing.

  29. I have been away from the blogs for a few weeks partly due to my own father’s illness and then quick death. He was also 65. He was not a member of the church and we were not close, but that was not my choice. I have felt all kinds of emotions since we learned he was sick a few weeks ago. Losing a parent is hard and I’m sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing.

  30. I am so glad I found this. I could hear you speaking every word straight from your soul. This was so tender. God bless you my friend

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