Memories of Kate
The book is now complete and in print. I realized too late that I hadn’t put in any information about the painting that's on the front cover. Humor me, and let me tell you about it.
It is a watercolor and the title is Memories of Kate. My grandmother’s name. The composition has tatting and crochet work she’d done and the rose is one of the varieties she grew in her massive rock garden. All things that make me think of her.
The reason I chose that painting for the cover is because the story couldn’t have happened without her. She raised my mother and she raised me. Her influence is felt in my life to this day. If you read the story, she appears in the first few pages and you’ll understand.
Thank you to all who have purchased the book and given me feedback on how it affected you. Your comments and encouragement have deeply blessed me.
You may have noticed I’ve been noticeably absent from the blog for the month of February. Completely unplanned events and health emergencies of our family took up much of my time. We’ve yet to plan and execute a retirement party for my husband for family and friends and my studio lies languishing from neglect.
But all is not lost. While life has been happening, the publication of the book has been chugging along and Friday, March 9, the printed version of Forgive and Forgotten will be completed. Both paperback and e-book versions are available on Amazon which you can reach here: https://www.amazon.com/Forgive-Forgotten-Memoir-Donna-Kemper/dp/1625860935/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1520345238&sr=1-1-fkmr0&keywords=forgiven+and+forgotten+donna+kemper.
The subject of forgiveness is perfect during the Lenten season. If you are interested in a book signing at your church or small group, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another Mother’s Day is past, thankfully. While I enjoyed celebrating my mother-in-law and spending the day together, I’m just not a fan of that particular holiday. It stirs up a lot inside that I’d rather ignore. It’s better than it was in my youth, but reading all the schmaltzy posts on Facebook about how great mothers are gets tiring.
Author Anne Lamott wrote a piece for Salon in 2010 on Mother’s Day which really nailed it for me. (You can read the entire piece at: http://www.salon.com/2010/05/08/hate_mothers_day_anne_lamott/) She wrote: “But Mother’s Day celebrates a huge lie about the value of women: that mothers are superior beings, that they have done more with their lives and chosen a more difficult path. Ha! Every woman’s path is difficult, and many mothers were as equipped to raise children as wire monkey mothers. I say that without judgment: It is, sadly, true. An unhealthy mother’s love is withering.”
If you’ve read much of my blog, you know my mother did not parent well. That’s just the way it is. She wasn’t even a “good enough” parent. She just couldn’t do it. In a rare moment of honesty she told me that she thought that since Grandma had been such a good mother, she’d naturally be one, too, and was surprised at how those maternal instincts never kicked in.
But lest the reader thinks my mother was the personification of evil, I should set the record straight. Mom was damaged by her own home life and her marriage, and just couldn’t recover. I was collateral damage, but it wasn’t intentional. She did her best to provide for me by working full time at Sears in the bookkeeping department and she was also very aware of the potential of sexual child abuse. Paranoid about it, actually. I only met one man she dated when I was in my teens. The rest she kept away. The one I met was a peach, but I think he knew that mom was not marriage material and moved on. I remember him fondly.
Our relationship broke down so much that for over ten years mom didn’t even speak to me. Our story is not dissimilar to the story Jesus told about the prodigal son, except she’s the one who left and I’m the one who forgave and welcomed her back. It took Alzheimer’s to get her to the place to ask for forgiveness. Not a small thing for her to do.
While I try to be absolutely honest in my recollections about my life, here’s something I don’t want you to miss. While my mother was a deeply flawed person, she did ask for forgiveness and I did forgive her. Through forgiveness, I learned much more about faith, life and love. I’m still on a journey of healing, but caring for mom through Alzheimer’s took me much further down that road than if I had hardened myself to her and refused to let her back into my life.
If there is someone in your life who has failed you in a major way, do not hang on to unforgiveness. It only hurts yourself. Jesus pointed out when He was teaching the disciples to pray that we are in God’s debt and need to forgive as freely as He did. We like to skip over the part of the disciple’s prayer (aka the Lord’s Prayer) that says “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” We love being forgiven…it’s just letting other people off the hook that’s so hard.
But remember...it’s a biblical principle that we will be treated as we treat others.
Note: If you have been abandoned by a parent, you may want to pick up Leslie Leyland Fields’ book Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers. It’s about finding freedom from hurt and hate and written with Dr. Jill Hubbard.
The bitterly cold weather we’ve been having lately, has reminded me of something that happened years ago. When I was a young woman, I worked a midnight shift job to put myself through college. Every other Thursday, we had to go to the main office to pick up our checks. (This was way before direct deposit.) One particularly icy day, I was in the parking lot when I slipped and fell. I was stunned and in some pain. A young man ran up, looked down at me and asked, “Are you okay?”
“No,” I croaked, lying there.
He blinked, straightened up, walked to his car and drove away. I was left lying on the frozen ground to fend for myself. He didn’t offer to help me up; he didn’t go back into the office to get help. He just drove away. I kid you not.
About a decade later, I was in another situation where I was left high and dry. My husband had just lost his job. The company he’d worked for sold off his division and the new company gave his position to the owner’s daughter. Almost immediately after receiving this news, I got a phone call from a complete stranger from the church we were attending who’d been given the assignment of starting a small group. With barely an introduction, the woman on the phone told me (told, not asked) to bring enough food to feed a small army the following Friday to her house. Still reeling from the news, I told her my husband had just lost his job and I wasn’t sure how we were going to eat, let alone feed another fifteen people. She didn’t offer to help. She didn’t even offer to pray. She just hung up. I never heard from her or the small group again. We drifted away from any church for a few years.
I have forgiven these people, or at least I’m working on it. But it does rather strike me that many people who claim to follow Christ behave in very callous ways. They may act concerned, as the young man did, or not act concerned at all, like the woman on the phone. When faced with real need they simply walk away. I don’t think its lack of concern. Rather, they just don’t know what to do. The Church, as a whole, does not disciple people well. It seems many churches are more concerned about being entertainment, rather than places of truth and healing. As a result, most Christians are ineffectual in handling the pain that people experience in everyday life. They may offer some useless platitude (for example, misquoting Romans 8:28) and walk away, leaving the person that’s in pain as bad as they found them, if not worse.
There is a better way. We can all be trained to be caregivers. It’s not rocket science, but it will get you out of your comfort zone. We can be taught to do the work of listening. Work? Yes. Listening requires much personal involvement and commitment. If you’re waiting for someone to stop talking so you can say your bit, you aren’t listening. Listening takes desire, commitment and patience. Listening requires you notice what’s being said and what’s not being said. Listening is an art, and art requires time and training.
Sometimes, it only takes a simple outstretched hand, to help someone who has slipped on the ice.
Love is Patient
In almost 30 years of marriage I have never once been angry with my mother-in-law. Not. Once. There may have been times of occasional frustration or missed communication, but never anger.
Recently, my father-in-law was hospitalized and had surgery for colon cancer. He also has the early to mid-stages of dementia. The hospital stay was difficult for him. He did not understand why he was there. He sometimes thought he was in a hotel. Other times, he thought he was in a storage unit. I took Mom to visit every day and it was lovely to see how she could bring Dad from an agitated state to a temporary place of calm and understanding.
Mike and I were greatly relieved when the doctor ordered in-home nursing. We felt it would help in Dad's transition as he continues to lose ground to memory loss. So after I had taken Mom out for an afternoon of shopping, I asked her what the visiting nurse had to say about Dad's recovery. The visit hasn't happened and isn't going to happen. When I asked why, Mom said the doctor's office had called and wanted Dad to come in so the doctor could sign off on the visiting nurse. Mom told the office she couldn't get him there. Again, I asked her why. Why did she say that, when she knew I'd be willing to take them?
Bottom line – she doesn't want a visiting nurse. She was ticked when told that in order for dad to go home, she'd have to have a visiting nurse to check the wound and remove the staples, a physical therapist to help Dad with a walker, and an occupational therapist. She was truly irked that (in her words) she had no choice in the matter. When the doctor's office called, she saw her opportunity to cancel. This woman, who is 92 years old, has congestive heart failure, can barely get out of a chair without help and needs a walker is determined to take care of her husband by herself.
I could scream. But I don't.
It occurs to me, our relationship has just deepened. I'm very angry with her decision. It endangers her and Dad. It increases the work load for Mike and for me. It's not a good plan.
But I still love her. Now, I don't just love her because it's easy. Now I love her in spite of it being rather difficult. That reminds me about the 'love passage' in I Corinthians 13 that starts in verse 4 saying, “Love is patient, love is kind...”
I truly hope I'm that sort of lover.
“Ugh! Take it away!” These were the first words I heard my mother say. Our relationship went downhill from there and never really improved.
And yet, God chose to work in our lives. Why? I do not know. But He did, and about 50 years later I put aside my art career to care for a mother I hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years I was her caregiver, advocate and overseer, and it changed me. Spiritual development rarely happens when things are going well. It takes the crucible of painful circumstances to refine us and transform us into the image of Christ as Paul speaks of in Romans, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will” Romans 12:1-2).
When my mother contacted me to ask for help, I had to ask myself some questions.
Mom is gone now. I am trying to move back into a life of creativity. This, too, is a journey. Although for 20 years I was a studio artist with gallery representation, I am finding the transition difficult. But God has had some surprises along the way.
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.