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31 Days to Shine: Shining in the Shadows (Part I)

October 8, 2013


Karen, my mother, died unexpectedly of heart failure after 10 years enduring a debilitating, degenerative disease called Huntington’s (HD). HD is evil, and slow. She could easily have lived another decade, trapped inside a body that could not longer walk, nor speak, her mind gone, her life…gone. But she didn’t. She died young. She was 57.

The days immediately following her death were some of the darkest I’ve ever known. Looking back now, I see that there were still pinpoints of light, despite all the shadows.


When the end finally came, the Pandora’s box of pain we had all been carrying around, weighty upon our back, was let down. We gathered around and opened it, my father, my brother, her friends and I. Sharing our grief in photographs and recalling happier times.        Remember when she used to make bread at the holidays? Her hands gently braiding glossy dough into plaits that would later rise up golden and fragrant, given as gifts. Remember how she sat up late at night? A mother’s stolen moments of solitude, her Bible open on the spread, pages brittle and crossed by her even, perfect script. Remember how she laughed, sometimes so loudly that others would turn and stare? And we all would laugh, because there is nothing so contagious as laughter.

The week she died, we would pause in our reveries for a phone call from a distant relative and fall apart  a few moments, tears soaking into her quilt which still covered the master bedroom bed. Tears of solidarity and compassion from friends mingling with our own.

In her loss, I found freedom. In her death, release.

In her loss was redemption, rediscovery and renewal.

In the depths of that terrible darkness, a light, a flickering beam— irrepressible, uncontainable — penetrating the shadow of our loss

I’m not even sure then I even knew it was there. Our loss was so huge, magnified by the years of anticipation — knowing it was coming did nothing to prepare us for when it finally happened. But they say hope floats.

Light, even the faintest, smallest, pinpoint of light, shatters the very darkest gloom.

In our case, the light represented something we—my brother, father and I—could hardly fathom. Knowing can be far from feeling, and what we did not yet feel, could not yet feel, was sorrow’s brilliant, irrepressible magnification of joy.

More tomorrow….

Be shiny today. Don’t just do it for yourself, do it for her. She needs your glow.


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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Melody permalink
    October 8, 2013 9:35 pm

    I know this isn’t ever easy. No matter how long it’s been putting these feelings into words always hurts. Sending you lots of love and prayers.

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. October 9, 2013 11:06 pm

    I am glad you were gifted with words so I could know your mother. But I think I would know her even if you never wrote any type of description, because I know you. She is beautiful in you and part of your shine. As you share about her in what you write, she becomes part of our shine too, as do you. I love that glow and I love you.


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