Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pieces of Her Life

I began going through my mother's correspondence yesterday: three crates full of copies of letters she had written and some that had been written to her.

It is dawning on me that my mother may have been what is called "hypergraphic."  It looks like she may have daily documented every detail of her life.  She handwrote pages and pages and pages each day and then transcribed much of this onto her trusty typewriter, and later to her computer.  I remember well her delight at the electric typewriter after years of typing and making carbons on her old manuel one.  Although she never learned the mystery of saving documents on the various computers we bought for her, she also loved the freedom of just printing out two copies of everything she wrote--one to send and one to file (or pile, actually).

Hundreds of the spiral notebooks that she always kept handy and in which she did most of her notetaking have already landed in the recycle bin.  I'm not a careful historian.  She was not some public figure whose and every word, jot and tittle will be memorialized in some public presidential library.  She was ordinary--in her unique and extraordinary way of being ordinary.  

I "googled" her yesterday: "Eileen H. Thomas."  The only places she turns up are in the obituaries that ran last week. Before Google, people used to employ clipping services.  Clipping service employees had the job of reading multiple newspapers and publications each day and cutting out all articles that mentioned a particular person.  The more clippings, the more public recognition. I found a folder of yellowed, but still preserved newspaper articles about her--one of her first jobs as a nurses aide, her honors as a beauty queen, her engagement, her wedding. Now, we just use the Google ranking system.  And she didn't make it.

I know now that I can't keep all these letters.  The organization alone of them will take days.  Ideally, then they would be scanned and electronically preserved.  And then the book written.  

It will not happen.  I am very much my mother's daughter.  This will quickly morph into one of the many projects she herself began and never finished. Then someone else will have to pick up my leavings, just as I am picking up hers. 

Ninety percent of what she wrote is already gone. Now, I'm going to have to get rid of at least 90% of what I held back.  And then maybe 90% of those leavings will still have to go.  

As I awoke this morning--which means I did at least sleep some last night--I meditated on the responsibility of being a steward of the life that God has granted me.  I am not my own--I have been bought with a price.  It then becomes my privilege to hand back this life to God as one well lived and increased in value, not decreased.

I found some release from my sadness in the thought of being a faithful steward of the time left to me in this physical body. Part of faithfulness is knowing what to keep and what to let go.  It means holding what I have with open hands, surrounding my decisions with prayer, and knowing that my life, too, will end someday.  I want to hear, "Well done, Christy!" when I come face to face with God.

Is my mother hearing those words?  It is a question to ponder.  As much as she wrote about her Bible and Sunday School lessons, I have not seen where she was able to articulate well her own theology and understanding of God.  I'm not sure that she ever really grasped grace, that gift of forgiveness and reconciliation, incarnated in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, that is freely poured out upon us, should we choose to receive it.  Nonetheless, with all her eccentricities and idiosyncrasies (and I use those same terms to describe myself), with the fears that often bound her and the stubbornness that used to infuriate those around her, with her geniuses and her generosities, she lived loving God and her neighbor with as much of her self as she was able to access.  

I know that as I pick my way through her papers, and read yet another letter lovingly detailing pieces of my life that I had long forgotten, I say, "Well done, Mother!  You lived as a faithful steward of the gifts God gave you.  Thanks." 


Barbara said...

Christy, the wonderful thing about grace is that your mother didn't need to know or understand it - she will receive it freely, anyway.

Angie Hammond said...

You describe yourself as one with eccentricities and idiosyncrasies much like your mother. And I'll add one who writes many articles as well. You ponder the question if your mother is hearing those words well done Eileen and if she understood the Grace of God.

Well, I'm going to say that I believe she heard those words well done Eileen and that she understood God's grace as a gift to her without cost to her.

Something I've observed in my own relationship with my mother. God and her theology about him is not a mother daughter topic of conversation. We've never really talked about what she believes or why. It's just a guess on my part, but I'm betting that it was not a normal topic for you and your mother either. Thus the questions rolling around in your head about her now in regard to her understanding of grace.

For what it is worth. After reading what you've written about your mother and all that she did, I'm convinced that she could not have done all that she did with the heart that she did if she did not know the heart of God.

To me that means that she knew and experienced God's grace even if she did not fully understand it and what it meant for her. Perhaps she was more gifted in being able to describe others and events rather than her own feelings about God and Grace.
For some reason she didn't write much about her own relationship with God, but she shared much with her Sunday school class each week.

Rest easy my friend, both God and your mother are already saying: "Well done Christy, I am pleased with you"

Thank you for sharing your life with those of us who read this blog. I've learned much from you and I am truly blessed to know you as a friend.

With love,