My mother

Confession: There is a whole new level of pain and beauty involved in seeing your mother without her hair. It was such pretty hair, long and thick and shining white. I miss it, and I miss the part of her that is not the same without it.

The first time she took off her hat to show me her shorn head, it was a jolt and a sickness, a thing wrong with the world that could never be made right.

But I also got a good look at her face. It seemed revealed, as though a skin had been pulled away, giving a glimpse of personality I’d never seen before. I’m a face reader, but I had missed a whole layer in my mother.

Once I went to a ladies’ seminar where each attendee was asked to bring along a sheet and a pillowcase, no explanations given. When I arrived at the registration table, I was told to wrap the sheet all around my clothes and put the pillowcase on my head, covering all of my body but my face. Every lady at the seminar wore that absurd disguise for half the day, and I was a little sulky about it and let some of my hair show. But the point was (and I liked it afterwards) to see how you felt about yourself, and how you viewed other people, if all you could see was a face.

Gone were the quick summaries – Oh, she goes to that kind of church – She has gray hair, so she must be over this age – Wow, nice dress – Okay, I’d never wear that together – She’s a trendsetter – That one’s Amish – All of it was gone. All you had were the faces, and what nice, friendly faces they were! Separated from all other impressions, they were more visible, more speaking, more important.

So with my mom.

She has common sense and grit and earthy wisdom and not-quite-kosher humor in that face.

And she is not well right now. But she is well cared for. It’s a team effort, loving a cancer fighter, and I am a small cog in the wheel with my four kids and my multi-faceted sickness germs to steer away.

But family and friends are offering incredible support. My siblings and their spouses send up love and texts and beautiful gift packages – my two nurse brothers stay tuned to her numbers and vitals – my remarkable sister with a cancer history of her own used her furlough to offer in-home support for a whole month – and my dad is doing everything else singlehandedly. Okay, not quite. There are many, many other givers: You know who you are. Thanks so much for doing this for my mom.

On the right is my mom with my baby, last summer. On the left is my mom’s mom with me!

We are very proud of her. And God is in the redeeming business.


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Ruth Anna
7 years ago

Wow! I loved your mom’s hair too…so beautifully white! =) Bless you all as you care for her!

Kendra Sensenig
7 years ago

Mama Zook
7 years ago

So much can be told by the eyes of those we meet! And they speak volumes!! When I look at the picture of your mom, I see the beautiful life that has always been there in that lovely lady!! I’m praying for a complete and quick recovery for her! (But I also know that there really is no quick recovery when speaking about cancer) I’m so glad she has a wonderful family and friends that are doing such a great job in caring for her!

Jonathan Yoder
7 years ago

Thank you for the update on your dear mother! Praying for you and yours. Your family has a special place in my heart!!
Grace to you, Ginny Yoder

7 years ago

I’m sorry….and I’m thankful for the grace God gives in time of need. Blessings to you all!

7 years ago

I love this beautifully written tribute to your mom.

I am thinking how we all long in many ways for that deep revealing of others and of ourselves that you wrote about here… BUT it doesn’t come easily or at no cost.

And wow. I need to see more pictures of you in your babyhood. I didn’t realize that Jenny favors you so strongly!

Heather Nicodemus
7 years ago

Your mother is wonderful.
Once upon a time she invited my husband & I for supper (on John Jr’s recommendation), not even knowing who we were. We joined the family supper circle and enjoyed bowls of potato soup before going over to church to hear the Bible school choir. Totally off the subject of your heart wrenching post, but… a warm memory to us still. We will lift you all up to our Father. ❤

7 years ago

Dearest Shari,
Consumed with life and my own problems, I haven’t read here in ever so long. The loss is mine. I didn’t know about your mom and I wanted to scream No Way!!!!!! when I started reading this post. I’m fighting tears because cancer is so nasty and I don’t think your family deserves it again. But I love this post so much. I remember your mom’s thick, beautiful hair too.
The light in her eyes, the grandmas and babies, the sheet and pillowcase retreat morning. I will take this post with me as I sleep.

Love to all of you.

7 years ago
Reply to  Shari Zook

Luci said it better than I could–the No Way!, your mother’s beauty, the happy, similar grandma-baby photos. Oh Shari.

LuAnn Peters
7 years ago

Your mom had beautiful hair and she has a beautiful soul!!!

7 years ago

Pain presents itself with so many different faces. After my mother’s sudden, unexpected death, many people commented on the level of pain that would come with no chance to say goodbye. It is painful, I agree. But if there’s anything I have learned, it’s the fact that pain is pain, no matter with what face it presents itself. Thankfully, God’s grace is God’s grace, and it is big enough for all of pain’s faces.

May God grant you an extra measure in your pain ❤

7 years ago

Sending a hug. I travelled that journey too..of cancer and my mother.❤

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