So What Did the Slave Mommies Do?

Posted on: January 29, 2012

Hello Friends. Bill has given this a thumbs-up, but he was not aware of the battles I was facing that day and is concerned readers may think I’m still in the state of empty I describe here. He wants me to add that this was my last note before my four-day weekend alone where I felt like I got to lie down in green pastures, be led by quiet waters and have my soul restored quite a little. That’s how David described his restoration, but to me it feels like I have been emotionally, mentally and spiritually dehydrated since a hole appeared in my heart on Day 1.  I have been sustained by grace each day, but that weekend I got a double dose of grace in my IV. I imagine if they had ICU units and IVs in David’s day he might have described it the same way, but his world was limited to shepherd-speak.

I have had some tough days since the day I penned this, but none yet where I felt as shaky and depleted as I did that day. God’s grace has been great and He is giving sweet insights through the tears. I just don’t feel right sharing the insights without the pain. Your prayers are helping all of us, every single day. Thank you so, so much. Most of this is from a note to friends.  Mardy

January 13th – Day 24. This is the first day that little things have made me angry, and I haven’t felt angry at little things in years. It’s been a day full of so many things to do and so many people to see. I drove Joel to school and then stopped to shop for a birthday gift for Kate. How incredibly thankful I felt to walk into a store, immediately see a kiosk of scarves, make a decision and be back to the car in 9 minutes. Stores feel big to me these days, so many choices, overwhelming decisions, too much walking. And strangers feel overwhelming – what if they intrude into my life by asking how I am today? Even talking to people I know and love today is difficult. I feel like a car very low on oil that wasn’t supposed to drive out of the shop this morning.

I finally got back to the safety of home, and remembered I wanted to help Bill get ready for that 4-day sailing trip with his brother. Bill needs this restoration time. His brother is his closest friend and the St. Johns his favorite haunt.  I boil eggs for their breakfasts, get coolers packed, find the rest of the groceries from his list and keep going – and going and going. Clank goes another rod in my soul. Everything just seems hard, hard, hard, and I feel so low on inner resources I want to drop. Where are the protein bars, why are there no spoons in the silver drawer, I need to get the thermos from the apartment (three blocks it seems to walk to the apartment and up that set of stairs, count them 1 through 16 up and 1 through 16 down), the kitchen trash is overflowing and I can’t smush another thing in so stop everything, resack and start over. Realize I forgot to ask Joel to do about five important things before he left for the weekend, but can’t do anything about them now, and why did I just drop another glass? Irritations rising and rising, and I am getting warning signs that something in me is about to break.  I did not know that weeks of grieving zapped mental, physical and emotional stores.

I had planned to help Bill get the boat swept and shining around noon, but I’m kept busy all day with the next thing and the next and the next.  A lovely family visits and brings us dinner, while Bill runs late in his preparation so he isn’t ready for my help until 4:30. By now I am completely spent. It’s cold outside, and I start feeling colder on the inside, which I think must be a stress-thing. Nothing in me wants to drag myself out to that freezing, untidy boat, climb up the ladder and start another job.

But I look over at Bill and feel only compassion for my guy who is grieving so deeply himself, and has been working so hard to get out the door with many painstaking projects for the past three days. If he knew I was suffering inside right now, he would never let me help, so I push through for his sake, remembering he has also been pushing through his pain to carry me many days.

I walk out to the boat (why is the back yard so far?), climb in, but the hand broom is nowhere to be found, so climb back out, walk back into the house (3 more blocks it feels, step, step, step, clank, clank, clank goes my soul), get another broom, walk back out to the boat, climb back in, trip over a gas tank thingy that’s been pulled into the walkway, start sweeping, find many little things from Bill’s projects that must be sorted and put in the exact right spots in the exact right tub and into the exact right cubby. Get out a tub, take off the lid, put in that thing, put away the tub because I think I have found the only one, keep cleaning and find another one, take out same tub or different tub, take off lid, put thing in, repeat.

It’s cold, so I’m wearing shoes rather than being my normal barefooted self, so I am taller and keep hitting my head on the cabin ceiling – ouch, I can’t believe I just did that again, ouch. I find another thingy for yet another tub in yet another cubby, ouch, hit my head again, trip, hit my shin again on the gas tank thingy, ouch, repeat. I am angry at the cubbies and the thingies I keep finding and the ceiling I keep hitting my head on. I can feel my breathing change to deep sighs as my stress level rises. I start to think about a hot jacuzzi with lots of bubbles, but realize there are more ends to tie up, more things to pack. I push on, not showing my anger, but feeling it rise while my soul sends more warning knocks to my brain, clankety, clanekety, clank.

When I finish the cabin, Bill carries the cooler next to the boat, opens it and notices that one of the tea jugs is leaking all over the food. I am now way angry at the tea jug, angry that I have to climb back into the boat to find paper towels, angry that I can’t tell which of the three jugs it is and must balance each one on a paper towel on the catamaran hull in the yard and wait for the guilty one to leak. I empty the cooler into the yard and notice leaves and woodchips are now stuck on the bottoms of each food item. I start wiping out the cooler, and without ever saying a word to Bill, throw each and every soggy towel into the yard as hard and as far and as angrily as I can as soon as I finish with it. I am on the verge of screaming.

And guess what thought pops into my head as I fling the last paper towel?

So, what did the slave mothers do?


What did the slave mothers do?

I think about it, and the thought is humbling and overwhelming. What did slave mommies who lost their children do? How did they cope when their children were beaten or abused or put to work in the fields from sun up to sun down with no rest, no opportunity, no medicine, no doctor, no help? What did they do if they died?  Did those mother’s souls go clankety, clankety, clank when they went back to work in the fields hour after hour, day after day with no break? How did they cope when they felt low on oil, when they felt they had used up every single unit of their resources, but weren’t allowed to stop, even for one day to grieve their own child’s death? What did they do with their sorrow when they were given little or no compassion, when they didn’t have weeks of loving care to grieve their loss as I have been given? How did they do the next thing and the next? And how did they keep their faith in a sovereign and loving God in such an ongoing fire?

And not just the slave mothers, I think, but what about mommies today whose children die from violence in warring nations and hunger in third world countries? How, how, how do they cope without massive amounts of friends forming a tight wall of love around them, bringing hot meals each day, texting to say I love you and am praying for you, or actually have masses of people praying for them? If I feel irritation and anger because I can’t find a spoon in my kitchen 24 days after losing my son, what does a mommy feel the day after she buries her son and doesn’t know where drinking water is coming from tomorrow for her other children?

I shudder to think what condition my faith might be in if I were asked to trade places with them. I would need a grace I’ve not yet experienced.  I see now I am being sustained, propped up, by the prayers and care of many people. I imagine if you gathered all the mothers who have ever lost a child into one group, surely the kit-glove care and tender love and massive prayers I have received would be in the top 5% of all time. I live in a day of technology where thousands have been asked to pray for us and scores are serving us – and the call goes out with the touch of a button from my friends’ computers. It feels very much like I’ve been checked into a very special VIP ICU unit of God’s hospital with fiery angels standing at the door, a mass of loving friends tending to my needs, and the Great Physician close by who has been giving me time to just cry and heal and cry and heal.

I don’t know why I would be given such amazing care, but realizing it now makes me feel about 100 times better. I’m still cold, and I bump my head on the cabin ceiling a few more times getting the last of the items in (boating is a lot of work!), and I still feel utterly depleted. But, I’m no longer angry about tea jugs or cold boats or spoons I can’t find. I am humbled.  I’m not working in the fields right now or exposed to the elements or emptying someone else’s toilet or tempted to worry about food or water for tomorrow. I feel extremely grateful to be me, extremely grateful to be so tenderly cared for.

The boat is ready, and I am still cold on the inside and can’t help thinking about that hot, bubbly jacuzzi. Then I realize I should offer Bill something warm before he leaves instead of his plans to eat fast food. As I stare at the microwave watching our plates of a deliciously catered dinner turn round and round, knowing they’ll be piping hot in 90 seconds, I wonder how my faith would be holding up if I were serving wormy rice or stale bread as some grieving mothers must be doing tonight.

Bill has just called to say he arrived safely in Palatka, within five minutes of his brother. That is amazing timing. These two, who love water and wind and sails and each other, and do not mind the cold at all, will have a much-needed time together. Joel is happily spending these four days with a family who loves him like their own. And my house is finally, finally deliciously quiet. It feels like a sanctuary right now. I’m going to go start that hot bubbly bath, melt some grated parmesan and mozzarella onto a baguette, pour a (very small) glass of wine, light a few candles and sink into the tub. My anger I notice is still gone.  It’s been replaced by overwhelming gratefulness.

10 Responses to "So What Did the Slave Mommies Do?"

Thank you, dear Mardy, for sharing this with us. Your sense of perspective will help us, too, when things are not going well. How is it you still manage to help and guide others in the midst of your grief?

You live your life filled with love for others, just as Jesus did, and your life and your words are like a sweet perfume:

“Live a life filled with love for others, following the example of Christ, who loved you and gave himself as a sacrifice to take away your sins. And God was pleased, because that sacrifice was like sweet perfume to him.” (Ephesians 5:2)

precious precious! thank you for letting me walk in your shoes but for a moment.

Wow. Your words are so descriptive. Thanks for sharing in such a way that we can continue to pray for your family, but be encouraged at the same time. I remember whining to myself one day because my van didn’t have AC and it was HOT, very hot. And then I thought, “You could be living in fear of your life in a cave in Afghanistan right now.” and that quickly helped me be thankful for being in America, for having a van that ran, for sleeping in peace at night. What did the slave mommies do? Sobering question. We love you!

I wish I could roll up beside you in your ICU amd hookup my heart to yours and sustain you and let your heart rest awhile. I love you so much and wish I could help carry your pain.

Thank you for sharing…again. May the Lord continue to sustain you all and show His glory and power and promises and peace in ways none of us could ever imagine. You are loved. Be blessed today.

I love you and miss you very much! I love how our God works. Even in times of our valleys of shadows he gently reminds us how much we are truly loved and blessed! Praying for your family and looking forward to when you are ready for a weekend away at the beach here!

We’ve never met, still I pray for you and your family every day. I am so thankful for your words of truth, faith and humility.

I am struck by your willingness to consider the condition of others.

Remember the scenario of children at the dinner table who wouldn’t eat their vegetables and mom or dad questions – what about all the starving children in Africa? Most children (or adults for that matter) would not choose to consider the condition of others when it is suggested or foisted upon them. You, however, in your grief and vulnerability, were sensitive to the Spirit and took a step back. So your anger and self-focus were released. It doesn’t negate your grief, your anger, your pain. But helps you to let go and not wallow.

Replacing gratitude for grumbling or complaining does the same thing.

I think of you daily and know that you are resting in the Lord.

I am a friend of Marilyn Wagner and I was at two of your conferences here in the Lansing area several years ago. I remember when your son passed away and I grieved and prayed for you at that time. This is the first time I have been to your blog. Miriam Woods, also a friend of Marilyn’s, suggested I come here and read. This past Sunday morning, we lost our 18 year old daughter. She evidently had a seizure in her bed at sometime in the morning and stopped breathing. I went to wake her up for church and started CPR on her while my husband called 911. She was never revived. Katie was the embodiment of Christ here on earth. Even though her cognitive level was about that of a 6 year old, her heart of love was only surpassed by Christ himself. I am not angry but I am completely numb and bewildered to why couldn’t she stay longer with us. I can’t pray and i just want solitude. My dear friends and family have been so wonderful with much needed prayer support. How do I get through this? If I could crawl into a hole and stay there I would but I have my other 5 children who are also suffering to think of. Advice please.

Dear Diana, I am so very, very sorry. I have just replied to you privately. If and when you are ever comfortable with me sharing here I wrote to you tonight, I will be happy to post. Praying for you, Sister.

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