After we spread mom’s ashes this weekend, my son said it was “weirdly comforting,” having the ashes on his hand, maybe even a whole-body dusting. Disturbing—we know for sure these are her ashes because we found pieces of her mouth hardware—yet comforting.

When mom stopped eating on June 8 a year ago, I was disturbed, and also comforted. She won’t suffer much longer in this condition.

364 days ago, I was doing what I did today. Mowing the yard. I didn’t know mom would take her last breath in less than 24 hours. Sometimes just the numbers, even if reminders of hard things, are comforting.

What I learned on this journey is that it’s better to be present for the hard parts, too. If you try to skip them, you’ll miss out. Be ready to be sad, and be open to the joy. Expect to be unsettled even as you embrace the peace. Stay present as the disturbing bits unfold, because they will be weirdly comforting in the end.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2023.
feeding mom

Through the Valley of Peace

Mom ate for some 30,713 days. She stopped eating on Monday. We didn’t know how many days it would take, but “this” is where we are. Did we make it to the valley of peace?

I prayed for her peace, but I’m not ready for “this.”

“This” is the scary part, where some of us squirm, maybe leave the room.

“I’m here for it,” I told mom when we saw the bull charging her. “I’m here for it,” I told dad as we stayed the course to keep mom at home.

And I am. I am here for “this” and at peace. I’m also ill at ease. Deep inside, a sickening squall is threatening.

The squall might not push the rains into this peaceful valley right away, but the storm is swelling.

Splintered Peace

At peace and falling apart. Numb and raw. Here and absent.

If you ask me, I’ll tell you, “I’m fine.” It’s true and it’s not.

I’ll keep my eye on dad. He’s like me, or rather, I’m like him. Genetics? Environment? Maybe both produce the invisible squalls that brew in our bellies.

You’ll see him and think, “He’s taking this very well.” You might tell the one sitting next to you in the pew, “He’s strong.”

Dad’s at peace and he’s strong and maybe he’s a wreck.

We’re many things just now. But later, it’ll hit us later, the winds from those invisible squalls will splinter and parse, and the storm will enter.

Walking through the valley of peace

We’ve been waiting here with mom for years now. But this… “this” is the real waiting. For though I walk through the valley… “This” is the valley of peace.

I prayed for her peace.

And this is the path to peace.

I thought I was ready. I also thought I would skip this week, not write about “this,” this part where most of us leave the room. But I stayed and I write because you might walk through this valley one day too. Maybe you already have.

I do feel the peace in this valley. Doesn’t mean I’m ready.

Before mom’s younger sister died in 2019, on the way home from a visit to her, mom told me, “I hope she goes to sleep and doesn’t wake up.”

She’s known me 22,975 days. Mom understands my prayers. And she understands what it is to squirm in the valley of peace, what it is to feel splintered by the answers to our prayers.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2022