African Mother and Daughter by Emily Wierenga
The pink evening sun slips over her shoulders like a lace shawl. She sits huddled inside her apron carefully peeling an apple. Pauses to stop and listen to the conversation.
Her blue eyes are wide—like a newborn’s. I gently remind her to peel, and she smiles. Rosebud cheeks lifting. Shoulders shrugging. Returns to her apple for a few more seconds.
It’s a pie-making bee. The ladies from the church are gathered in my mother’s living room. Dad’s spread a tarp on the floor, and we’re slicing, dicing and rolling in flour-dusted harmony.
Mum is flushed; I worry she’s tiring. Again, like a newborn, she can quickly become over-stimulated. Fuzzy.
“Do you need a glass of water?” I ask, rising. She nods haphazardly. I bring it to her lips and she drinks. Looks up at me gratefully. Tears spring.
I’ll never get over it. The way brain cancer has softened my mother’s jagged edges. Six years of losing her mind and finding her heart.
We used to fight, door-slamming, pot-banging, fist-flying fights until our temples throbbed blue with veins. I moved out west for school, and stayed there. Came home only when I realized how sick she was. Now, I cannot leave her side.
“You’re so patient with her,” one of the church ladies whispers to me as I watch Mum pad away in her slippers towards the bathroom. I feel baffled. Patient?
“She’s my mum,” I say quietly.
That’s all I can muster.
How do I explain the pain in my chest every time I hug the woman who gave me life?
The way I wish I could excavate the tumor and fill her head whole again?
How do I explain the nights filled with tears on her ‘fuzzy’ days, the way my faith has curled at the corners, tattered and old?
But it’s more than that.
It’s watching Mum stop and dance to the radio in the middle of the living room floor. Seeing her lift her hands to the ceiling in spontaneous worship.
It’s watching her sway in her favorite sweatshirt and her droopy trousers, baggy and blue.
It’s wanting to stand in her slippers and feel the way she does—utterly content just to dance.
People say I’m patient with her. But, as a woman who’s expecting her first child in November, I imagine it’s much like it will be with my newborn. It’s an honor—not a chore—to serve someone who reflects the very face of God.Leave a Comment
Brain cancer is a hard reality to live through. I will pray for you. God bless.
thank you for sharing about being selfless in ministering to your mother. It is an amazing experience you are having, and I am glad that you are cognizant of it while the amazing is happening. I pray for strength and endurance for you, and for continued reliance upon God!
Especially Heather says
Wow. I see my brain cancer through my daughters eyes in this post. Thank you for that.
Oh thanks you! What a beautiful way to see the circumstances you have been placed in. God bless you all.
I had the privilege of taking care of my Mother from the time of her diagnosis of esophageal cancer until she went home to be with the Lord. It was a fast three months.
I felt just like you…it was an honor.
Thank you for sharing your story with us.
This vignette is beautiful. Thank you for sharing your Mum with us.
Holley Gerth says
Emily, thank you for gracing our pages with your loveliness through color and words. Your post is breathtaking, simple, true, real…all the way to the heart.
Ann Voskamp@Holy Experience says
I can hear your voice, soft and true-hearted, in these words.
How you love.
How I learn.
Thank you, my friend…
Samantha @ Mama Notes says
Thank you for sharing. How beautiful.
Julie Downing says
My heart is aching right now. I don’t have cancer but I do have a daughter who has turned her back on her entire family (and I fear God as well) to live with a man we’ve never met and is now expecting our first grandchild. I have looked forward to granchildren for years and now that’s it’s happening I am completely left out. I hope it doesn’t take a tragic illness to bring us back together and would appreciate your prayers for healing and reconciliation. Blessings, Julie
emily wierenga says
dearest Julie… i am praying. my heart hurts with yours. Lord, you’ve done wonders in my relationship with my mother–you’ve mended, and made new. do the same for Julie and her daughter. make things whole. in Jesus’ name…
I have lived through something very similar with my dad who also had brain cancer. Every day the last year of his life was a special memory that I kept reminding myself in the moment to burn into my memory for all time. Saying a prayer for you!
emily wierenga says
thank you, Tara… thank you, everyone for allowing me this space on your blog. may God’s grace soothe and heal the broken places of your hearts. in him, emily.
BEAUTIFUL!! I see Jesus in you!!!!! How refreshing in a world where most think “it’s all about me”. God bless u with strength- congratulations on the baby!!!!