I’ve been thinking a lot about my mother of late. She is not deceased, although sometimes I think it might be easier if she were. Lest you think me an ogre, let me explain.
My mother is severely mentally ill and has been in varying degrees my entire life. She hasn’t been “officially” diagnosed with specific mental disorders, but I believe she suffers from more than one. She is definitely depressed. I also believe her to be manic depressive, and she most certainly suffers from paranoid delusions. While we don’t have a definitive name to put to her illness, anyone who goes months without washing their bodies or hair has issues in more ways than one! (I know…you’re thinking Ewwww!, and I would have to agree with you.) If I didn’t have any other way of knowing my mother is not all there anymore, this one aspect alone would be a dead giveaway.
When I was younger, my mother always looked immaculate. She took great pride in her dress and appearance. She took care of our home. She planted flowers each year. Pink petunias were her favorite. I still have difficulty looking at them without crying.
That’s not to say that things were completely normal even as a young child. My mother was prone to fits of rage, and they were usually directed at me. Like the time when I was seven or eight and she beat me with a switch until it left whelts that stayed on my legs and bottom for several days because I left a pair of sneakers outside (we’re only talking about five or six dollars here, and no, my family wasn’t dirt poor) and the dog chewed part of one of the shoes. There were other instances, but I don’t think I want to walk that path right now.
The year I turned 16 definitely marked a turning point, though. That year began my mother’s descent into wherever she lives in her own mind now. It took her a few years to get there, but once she did, she has never come back, nor does she want to.
I tell people that I spent my 20’s getting over the first 20 years of my life. The truth is, though, I’m not over it. My mother is lost to me. She didn’t go with me to the final fitting for my wedding gown. She wasn’t there when my daughter was born. As a matter of fact, she was committed involuntarily to a mental hospital the day after my daughter was born. She has only seen Rachel twice, and Rachel is now 6 1/2 years old. Those times were only because she showed up at family functions when she knew we would be there.
Fortunately, Rachel doesn’t remember those encounters. She was too young. The last time was when she was three. She asked me a few weeks ago if my mother was still alive. How am I supposed to respond to that? I told her that yes, my mother was alive, but she is sick and isn’t able to see us. That seemed to satisfy her, but I know there will come a time when I will have to explain in further detail. It will be difficult for her to understand. I’m 37 years old, and I still don’t understand it myself.
For reasons beyond my comprehension, God has not chosen to heal her. I know He can, but I don’t know if He will. I try to take comfort in His promise in Psalm 27:10 “Though my mother and father forsake me, the Lord will receive me.” He is my heavenly Father and has loved me with an everlasting love. I need desperately for him to fill that space where my mother should be. The wound is still open. It’s like the cut that is nearly healed and is then reinjured and feels open and raw all over again. It feels that way right now.
I sent her a small Christmas gift this year. I’m not sure why. The last time I sent her a Christmas gift, I found out later she had given it away. I bought her a fancy electric blanket because she won’t run the heat in her home, and I felt bad for her and didn’t want her to be cold. She thought the controller would somehow control her mind and got rid of it.
Still, she has been on my mind, and while shopping in A Southern Season, I saw a bag of lemon drops. I remembered that they were always her favorite. I boxed them up, enclosed a short note letting her know that I thought of her when I saw them, and that I was praying for her healing.
I didn’t do this with any expectations. Still, there was this small part of me, that part deep down that needs a mother, that hoped it might elicit some sort of response. None has been forthcoming, and I doubt that any will.
So instead, I will look up, continuing to hope and pray that if it is not God’s will that my mother be healed this side of heaven, that He will fill me with Himself until the day when I see her once again planting those pink petunias.