May 3, 2023
A Note from Diana Huey
My mother and I have a long, complex relationship, fraught with anger, disappointment, rebellion, grief, and denial, but also laughter, love, longing, healing, and hope. We didn’t speak for a quarter of a century, yet God has been working on us and we are slowly & steadily rebuilding & healing.
Mom is a texter, not a talker, so imagine my surprise when she texted to ask if I was available for a chat. Then she called me and sorrowfully shared that her aunt — the last of her generation in the family — had passed away.
She’s been longing to reconnect with her family, yet too petrified to take action. Would I go with her to Toledo for the funeral, she asked. Just as she is not one to talk on the phone, my mom is not one to ask for help. She has a stubborn streak of independence. For so many reasons, I didn’t hesitate to affirm that I would take that trip with her.
I didn’t know this aunt, my great-aunt; it had been over fifty years since I had even seen anyone in that branch of the family. My awareness of the branch was zero; I didn’t even know there was a branch. I hadn’t heard stories, I hadn’t been to a single gathering. My mother’s past was an enigma-wrapped mystery that not even a pack of meddling kids with a hungry pup and a snazzy van could unravel.
The monkey with the wrench threatening the whole trip was that Mom was getting over COVID. She had tested negative, but she still coughed as though her lungs had been served an eviction notice. She was go/no-go right up until the night before the funeral.
She fought back tears when she called to say that she was not well enough to travel. She sounded so devastated. She had worked up the nerve to go home, yet her body said not now, not this time.
I offered to go in her place. It was so important to her, and my attendance would be a gift of love that I could give her, even as the thought of it terrified me. But if I was going to live my faith, I knew that this was love that I could show in a very real and tangible way.
I had so many questions: questions about what my mother was like as a girl, questions about her aunt, questions about her cousins. Would they even know me, I wondered? Would they carry hurts or anger about this woman who walked out of their lives for a half century? Would they have questions, and would I even have answers if they did?
I was determined not to let my own fears interfere. I have weekly witnessed the way God has been at work in my life in my share group; I would put my trust in God where my mouth was. After all, I had prayed for reconciliation with my mom for years, and who was I to deny this opportunity to show her?
Through the gift of technology & Spotify, I sang most of the way to Toledo. My Weekly List provided thoughtful song by thoughtful song, all curated as if Spotify knew what my heart needed most. I chuckled to myself, remembering a line in a song called “God is In”: “God is in the radio/Wolfman Jack told me so.” But I digress.
The funeral was small; there was no way for me to sneak in and try to mingle or hide. It was time to be bold and introduce myself.
Before I could even get my name out, my mom’s cousin gave me a huge hug. “You’re Margie’s daughter, aren’t you? I would know you anywhere.”
She was grieving the loss of her mother, and yet she welcomed me as if the time between us was no time at all. She introduced me to everyone — maybe 15 people in total — and the questions started. Where was my mom living now? Was she happy? And would I please give her their love & let her know that she was missed?
Just the warmest welcome I had ever received.
We sat together and visited, and through sharing stories about my great aunt, and my mom as a child, we started to build a bridge over a quickly-vanishing chasm.
I drove home, buoyed by love and — honestly — wrecked by grief. Grief, for the loss of having missed half a century of relationship with my family. Grief for my mom, who fled home because of hurt on hurt on hurt from her own fractured relationship with her mother — a grandmother I never met — who died by suicide before I was born. Grief, and an overwhelming amount of guilt, that my son would never know his own birth family in Ecuador because we had taken that away from him through our adoption when we claimed him as our own. We never even stopped to think about how he would feel about it, and he’s felt that grief for a long time. I finally understand that now, at least a little.
But still, even through all of the grief, there was the love.
The welcome. The desire and willingness to reconnect and embrace me, to claim me as their kin. Through the tears, there was joy.
So much of what I intended as a gift of service for my mom became so much of an unexpected gift to myself.
That part of the benediction about getting nudged into places where you might not go on your own? I understand that a lot better now, too.
A Weekend of Healing
Maybe you need some space for some of your own grief to find expression, or just a place to heal from all the things you are carrying.
All of us have been through so much in these last years. I hope that many of you will take advantage of the incredible opportunity this weekend for some healing.
The Weekend of Healing starts with a worship service this Friday evening at 7pm at Scioto Ridge United Methodist Church (4343 Dublin Rd, 43026) — all are welcome and no registration is required.
On Saturday there’s a retreat from 9am to 3pm at HUMC in the social hall — it would help us if you’d register for the Saturday portion, which you can do here, but you can also just show up Saturday and we’ll welcome you with open arms. At this point you’ll need to bring your own lunch, and you can pay the suggested registration fee of $40 at the door (cash or check; scholarships available or pay what you can) or pay online here (use the Adult Discipleship fund option).
You can come to Friday night or Saturday or both.
Our facilitator is the Rev. Jenny Smith, a friend of Pastor April’s who invites people into the courage to show up authentically to all of life’s complexities. As a writer, coach, and spiritual guide, Jenny teaches that we cultivate resilience and healing when we move from the story of fear and avoidance toward a palms up posture of curiosity and creative awareness. Drawing on her own life experience, Jenny treats sensitive topics like grief with disarming humor and grace, offering hope that the way to wholeness is often right through the heart of the hard things.
All the details about the Weekend of Healing are at the link here. We’d love to have you there.
It is well with my soul; may it be well with yours, too.