I sit beside my mom in a hospital far from home.
Her recovery from the removal of an acoustic neuroma has been tortuously full of tension and worry— very step haunted by unexpected disappointments.
I’ve cried my contacts into shreds, grieving for her loss of dignity and control. To go from her vibrantly sassy self, into a shell of who she is over the course of just a few days has left those of us who love her dismayed, shocked, exhausted by a roller coaster ride of grief.
With every new shift of nurses and caretakers I start over with my litany of mom. I want them to know her as she is, not as she seems right now in this broken moment.
I describe her artistry as a quilter, her love of her family and loyalty to her friends. How her great grandkids named her, “Great”, because she is great. And because she brings them great presents and delights in who they are.
Great is an appropriate name for my mom.
Then I tell them how she joked with the neurosurgeons just minutes before wheeling into the operating room. Their startled laughter at this fragile patient teasing them about their sober minded seriousness, my knowledge of her underlying terror at what they were about to do.
And as I help her back to herself, I remember…
Cookies coming out of the oven, timed to perfection right when we came home from school. Sweet rolls on Christmas morning, countless lunches all those years of school, and what amazes me the most: a home cooked dinner every single night. Fast food never once sat on our table, she would have been appalled at the idea.
I remember sitting beside her as she sewed ball gowns for my Barbies, then later my prom dress and eventually matching dresses for my daughters.
And all those hours of talking.
Late at night when I was a self-conscious, socially awkward teenager. The after dinner phone calls when I was lonely for her closeness, and lived far away. And that early morning frantic call when Matthew was so sick and I was so afraid.
She listened to me for hours… and hours… and hours.
I remember her once saying: For such a quiet girl, Diane can sure talk!
And then in those years when it was all I could do to keep my head above water with four kids and a husband traveling all over the world, she’d welcome me back into her home for my annual Mom’s Break. While Phil held down the fort at home, Mom treated me to a retreat aimed to fill me full and send me back refreshed.
I’d sit on the back deck of their beautiful home overlooking the Sierras and just soak in the peace and sunshine. She’d cook and bake and fill her clawfoot tub full for a hot bubble bath. Then she’d turn back the covers on my bed and turn on the electric heating blanket.
All that Love Does, as Bob Goff so adamantly reminds us.
Mom did. And so now here I am doing a little love back.
Funny how that works.
And maybe we need to remember that when the kids are squabbling and the house is a mess and there’s too much work for one woman to keep up with.
Because I know we drove my mom nuts sometimes. Lots of times. I remember a meltdown or two, that frustration spilling over as we pushed those buttons every kid is born knowing how to push.
But what sticks in my mind in these moments is all the doing she did for us. And I find myself wanting to do back.
To be tender for all the times she gently talked my fears away.
To rub her back like she rubbed mine.
To tell her she’s beautiful even though she knows it cannot be true. Just like she told me I was beautiful when my mirror told a different story.
And isn’t there a glowing beauty in skin gently aged by all that doing?
Dear girls, to be a doing kind of mother is to be beautiful in a way that cannot be covered by age or trauma or brokenness.
My mother will always be beautiful. She earned those creases by doing love so much and so often its permanently etched on her face.
And so many of you need to know that now while you’re in those doing years. There is a day of payback. A time when your sons and your daughters will feel the honor of giving back to you a tiny bit of what you gave to them.
My mother would never have believed that when I was a sassy teenager. But it’s true!
There has been a God-given glow about these days of doing for my mom. A sense that He is here and He is pleased and He is guiding me and delighting in what is happening in this hospital room. And maybe laughing a little too as He remembers the grief I gave to mom way back when.
And so here I sit. I wait for her to come back to us. To laugh and tease and sass in that way of hers I love. To finally know that all that doing she did is coming back to do a little back.
From my heart,
 a benign tumor that was pushing against her brain