Washing Mom’s Hair

I wrote this a couple days ago, but today is the correct day to post it.


I’m writing this as Mary likely finally sits on her literal death bed. I probably won’t release it to be read until after she dies, but I’m writing it now. I said goodbye to Mary today. I told her that I would see her soon, some day, in heaven. I cried too, I cried while I watched my strong-not-strong 12-year-old boy say goodbye through tears and while I spoke for my 10-year-old son who could not bear to face the last days.

Mary was my mother-in-law by legal association but she was 100000% my mom. Mary loved me during a time when my mom was not able. She loved me as a son, like no other mom loves her son and like every mom loves her son. Like a mother, she loved me before I even really knew how to love her back, from way back when she met me at age 15-ish. She taught me what unconditional love looks like, and what Jesus looks like.

Mary was strong, and capable, and flowing with copious quantities of grace and generosity for everyone she met. She would constantly make excuses for people’s bad behavior (including mine) so that she could love that person in spite of it, and then she would dually use everything within her power to reach-out and physically love us and anyone else she came in contact with. She literally did this until she physically couldn’t any more. When she did these things, she was the first person who really showed me by example how Jesus sees us and how sacrificial love works.

Mary was all that, and more. So much more than I can say here, so much more.

She brilliantly and always positively fought such a physical struggle for so many years. She overcame:

  • A dozen some stillbirths and miscarriages before having Heather
  • Cancer
  • Back/Disc disease
  • Broken bones (many)
  • Strokes
  • Heart Disease
  • Type 1 Diabetes
  • Macular Degeneration
  • and more than I can remember…
  • and for 3+ years longer than predicted by every single doctor, she overcame Rheumatoid Lung disease combined with Interstitial Lung disease which we all new would eventually be terminal.

After several bouts in hospitals and in the final year of Mary’s life she was confined to her living room at home – in a chair for a while – and then in a hospital-style bed later. For most of that time she was able to get up and relieve herself on a portable toilet, get into a wheel chair, and move into the kitchen to spend time with us doing a puzzle or just talking. She could barely see with her eyes at this time, but it didn’t matter to her at all.

These were the months where I was so blessed to enjoy the weekly task of washing mom’s hair.

See – Mary had this way of finding something — one thing or things — that she could use to brag about ANYONE. That one thing would change for people over time, but she would find that thing to make someone feel valid and useful and Loved and exploit it fully to their own benefit (usually without their consent or knowledge).

For example:

Heather was SOO good at making her breakfast and doing her tracheotomy changes.

I was SOOO amazing at washing her hair, that only I was permitted to do it.

For a short time I complained silently or privately to Heather about this task, but it wasn’t long before I began to realize – week after week – what a privilege it was. It was really a great gift to wash mom’s hair in the kitchen sink over the back of the wheelchair for all those months.

See, Mary gave me the honor of giving her one of the last things that made her feel good and human again. That I could do that for such a person as her! She gave me the pleasure of knowing that it was only me who could do it. Washing mom’s hair became for me something that I looked forward to every weekend. It was one of her last shreds of humanity, and if you’ve ever had your head massaged while getting your hair washed, you know how good that feels.

That she would invite me into that piece of intimacy with her – like a very special mother-son connection. That she would honor our relationship in such a way, was undeniable grace to me. It was therapy for dealing with what we both knew was coming. After everything she had given me for so many years, Mary gave me the last thing she could give me, her last piece of basic human pleasure other than simple touch and food.

Have you ever enjoyed that first shower after camping in the woods for several days when you are so dirty? I can only imagine maybe it was like that for her. I certainly know what it was like in my heart.

If you are able to join my family and I in celebrating Mary’s life over the next day(s) as I expect to release this immediately after her passing, please think on these aspects of her personality. Think about her outrageous relationship with Jesus Christ and how it influenced her every word and decision. Try to remember the way in which she honored you as an individual, just as Jesus loves you particularly, I’m certain it’s there. Everyone she knew in her life benefited from Mary’s eyes. Now we can all benefit from her spirit.

About otter77

I am a father, husband, computer hacker, youth minister, foster parent, adoptive parent, friend, reader, lover of science, aspiring/hopeful writer and most of all a confused but dedicated and Loved child of Jesus Christ. View all posts by otter77

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