spirit meets flesh

This morning Mum can’t distinguish between her sandwich and her cookie.
She’s dressed entirely in blue; her shirt is tucked into her stretchy pants which are pulled up high so it looks like she has no waist. She’s slouched over the table when I come in. For the past hour she’s been staring at her piece of bread which Dad decorated with cheese and peanut-butter before leaving for work.
I’m kicking myself for not getting there sooner. She doesn’t seem to notice. Just smiles up at me with cherry blossom cheeks and big blue eyes and sips more of her mocha. Her left hand is hanging limply at her side. I know she’s spent the past hour trying to figure out how to pick up her sandwich.
“Is this breakfast?” I ask. “Or lunch? Or brunch?”
“Are you hungry?”
“Oh definitely,” she says.
I gently wrap her left hand around the sandwich, help her lift it to her mouth. She eagerly chews.
I put on some music, then feed her more cheese and bread.
That’s when I ask if she wants a cookie.
She looks at me, then the sandwich. Points to it. “This?”
“No, this is a sandwich. Would you like a cookie?”
She looks confused, eyes vacant. Then she picks up her yellow napkin and begins to keep time with it. Starts to sing. “Hallelujah, Jesus is my everything…” Doesn’t miss a beat.
I can’t hold back the tears.
Step into the kitchen, grab a cookie.
Yesterday I had a difficult conversation with my boss, which resulted in me no longer working there. For awhile my world became a crumbling cookie in my hand. But now I’m here. I sit with Mum for five minutes… and all the pieces are glued back together again… without anything really changing. Mum doesn’t have the answers. Some people would say her sickness should shake my faith. But it’s these broken-down moments that make me realize, life is about seeing what isn’t visible to the naked eye.
Normally Mum lives for chocolate chip cookies. This morning, she can’t even recognize one. She can’t even lift her own arm to feed herself. But she can praise Jesus… I hear her soft voice, see her rocking back and forth in her chair, her left hand now clenched tightly around the cheese and bread.
I recall something my friend told me, about farmers in Peru whose houses are made from the clay they walk on. Some would say they live in squalor. Yet these farmers don’t see it that way. They have food and shelter—in their eyes, they’re rich. And when white westerners come and spend time with them, they don’t see it as opportunity for judgment or jealousy. They weep with gratitude for guests who want to spend time with them. We might call that naivety, but really, we’re the ones missing out on the big picture. A picture which stretches far beyond the frame into a place where spirituality becomes reality.
No wonder Jesus called children the true hosts of heaven. Babies are miracles in themselves; fresh from the womb—a place where spirit meets flesh. They are like fresh pottery from the wheel, with the Father’s fingerprints still drying in their skin. The older they get, the harder it becomes to recognize those prints. Skin becomes brittle, dry, old.
By now Mum’s head is slumped over onto her chest. I try to pry her fingers away from the bread; it hurts her. “Ouch” she says.
Then the chorus comes on again and she immediately starts singing, “Hallelujah… Jesus is my everything.”
It’s about looking beyond the visible. Right then I don’t see a woman with cancer. I see faith.



  1. melanie said,

    July 11, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Em, I have tears in my eyes as I read this post…your mom is teaching us about faith!

  2. Teneale said,

    July 11, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    It is a miracle in itself that you can see your moms illness through such faithful eyes. I admire your courage and your faith. I’m sorry about your job, but at least that means I will get to spend more time with you. Selfish, I know. Thanks again for the honesty you trust us with as you share your story. Love you hon.

  3. ammeepearl said,

    July 11, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    wow em, this is a stunning and wrenching picture — thank you for writing and sharing it, and your life through these words. I’m sorry to hear about your job — but you know, there are greater things in store.

    I esp. loved your analogy of the babies and Gods fresh fingerprints, such a beautiful picture to me, to everyone I’m sure … keep holding onto everything you are — and to God — his fingerprints are VERY visible on you =)
    Love you!

  4. Allie said,

    July 26, 2008 at 1:38 am

    this is beautiful, em! thank you for honouring mum while seeing through human weakness to find the Life that permeates us and makes us sing… it’s wonderful to see your thoughts take shape and to get to know you in person or online 🙂
    i love you!

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