Standing in the Hallway of Sorrow, thoughts on losing my Mother

(In honor of my beautiful, selfless Mother who went home to be with Jesus yesterday afternoon, hours after I wrote this post.)

thoughts on losing my mother, mackenzie chester, in the hallway of sorrow, grief, fear, regret

I am going to write something that is braver and stronger than I now feel, but I believe it with all my heart.

Daddy met Mama on a Sunday morning at a little church.  She was singing that day.  His first impression of her was, I’m sure her beauty, and her voice.

Last night I listened to an old voicemail from Mama.  All it said was, “Hey Mackenzie.  Give me a call when you get a chance.  Love you.”  I sent it to myself as an email so it didn’t get accidentally deleted from my phone.  I love that voice.

It is early Sunday morning.  I am waking up, laying in bed before the sun has come up, wanting to call my sisters but not wanting to wake them.  I am wondering if the thing that I feared most in the early years of my childhood has happened in the night.  Did I lose my Mama?

I remember never leaving her side.  I held her hand, clung to her, sat beside her when she played the piano in church because sitting in the pews was like sitting on the other side of the ocean.  I remember crying my eyes out when she dropped me off for school because I was so afraid something would happen and she wouldn’t make it back to get me.

I couldn’t bear the thought of my life without her.

She has had a year of great trials and suffering.  Through it all, she has remained beautiful and gracious, strong beyond belief, with a faith that has risen up pure and true and has carried her with peace to the very threshold of this earthly life.

I expect, and even hope, that by morning, she will be gone to Jesus.

In the days and hours leading up to death, there are two words that keep offering themselves back to me.  Fear and Regret.

I refuse them both.

I refuse to look ahead and fear what is going to happen.  How much suffering she will endure.  How much we will lose.  How deep the ache will go when she is separated from her body and we are left in a wide chasm of loss.  I have to shut this door.  Slam it shut.  This is not the room I choose to enter into–a life of fear.  Life is too short and too precious to waste our valuable time in anxiety over what may, and even very-likely-will happen.  This moment is the moment that counts.  This is the one we can change.  This is the one we can control.  This is the one where breath carries meaning and the words we say can speak life.

I refuse to open the door of my future to fear. And I refuse to leave the doors behind me open to regret.

Yes, we could have done things differently.  I wish I would have written down more of Mama’s stories.  I wish I had recorded her singing and playing the piano.  I wish I had more than this two-sentence voicemail to remember that beautiful, musical way that she spoke to me before she had to slip inside herself to begin the process of dying.  I wish I would have been there more.  I wish I would have made that one last trip happen…  I wish that I had given my children more time to make memories with her in her last days…  I wonder if we made all the right choices regarding her care when she was sick.  Did we push where we should have just let go?  What would have happened if…  These are the questions that can haunt like ghosts.  They can poison like cancer.  But in the face of great sorrow, I have a choice.  I am choosing to walk forward from here, knowing that we have prayed over every major decision of our lives, trusting that God is leading us, that He helped us make the right decisions at the time, and for where we have misstepped or misheard his voice, there is so much grace. He is able to wrap everything up with details that show his infinite love, compassion, and mercy.  Wishing for a past that never existed is the greatest waste of this precious moment that we are now living.  I refuse to allow regret to rob me of the rich, fullness of life.

I will hear Mama’s angelic voice again.  I will hear it as never before in heaven.  And even on this earth, I will hear the echoes of her voice, as her children and grandchildren gather round the living room to sing her favorite hymns.  So many voices…  A choir singing harmony, all derived from the same genetic pair of voices.  She is in the voice of my own children.  The song of our family goes on and on and on…

In the hallway of sorrow, I choose to walk into the room where there is music.  To sing this song as my Mother has bravely shown me all my life.  Not looking ahead in fear, not looking back with regret, but just one grateful breath at a time.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Adrienne says:

    It is such a gift for you to be willing – and able – to write out of the freshness and the rawness of this moment, Mack. You remind me that our perspective – even at the most harrowing, soul-taxing moments we may ever encounter in our lives – is a choice. It is always a choice. And how we choose determines our experience. It changes our lives. I am so profoundly inspired by your refusal of fear and regret, and by your commitment to presence, to song, to celebrating the thread of life your mother wove into you, and that lives and sings through you now. I honor this choice so deeply. I love how, even in the face of grief and loss, you are opening the gift of your mom’s life outward and extending her to us all. You are amplifying her legacy through your writing. I only met her once, but she has touched me so deeply. Thank you. God bless you and your family, and especially your sweet daddy, at this time and in the days to come.