Finding Purpose

What’s the point?

I hear this phrase more often than I wish I did. It pokes it’s head into a variety of conversations.

Clean your room.
What’s the point?

If you want to be an Engineer, you’ll need to be better at math.
What’s the point?

Stop moping. Find something to do.
What’s the point?

Help your little sister.
What’s the point?

Young boy bored looking out at a rainy landscape without purpose
What’s the point?

What’s the point?” is the teenage translation for the preschool “Why?“. From such a young age, human beings search for the reason behind action or, more aptly, reason for action. The preschooler’s focus on ‘Why?‘ stems from a genuinely curious exploration of the world. Whereas, the adolescent’s ‘What’s the point?‘ carries with it a deep connotation of hopelessness. It has an embedded complaint that compensation has not been met previously, so…

WIFM Syndrome

Materialistically, this is the WIFM (What’s In It For Me) Syndrome. Action is legitimate relevant to potential personal gains. If all humans followed this formula and only acted in exchange for materialistic compensation, how could our world ever progress? Until our actions reach beyond self to encompass communal benefit, this civilization will likely continue to struggle divided. The measure of humanity remains inverse to our measure of self.

How do we change the mindset? Have we lost sight of Purpose?

A bee recognizes the purpose of the yellow flower
Convince the bee that the flower has no purpose.

Function is Purpose

This Universe, this world, each species, each and every atom at the micro or the macro level, within all spheres and spaces, individually and collectively has a function and, therefore, exhibits purpose. In High School Biology we studied the organs of the human body defining and distinguishing them by their functions. The liver keeps our blood clean, breaking down fats and filtering harmful substances. It ensures that our blood composition meets the standard necessary for good health.

The heart contracts rhythmically and consistently from our birth till the day we die, pumping blood throughout the body. That blood transports oxygen and vital nutrients to each cell and then collects the carbon dioxide and refuse to expel outside the body. The skin not only provides protection for the body by preventing the loss of essential fluids, but it also regulates temperature and the excretion of toxic substances in the form of sweat. Each organ has a function and together all those functions carry the purpose of extending life.

Even the smallest cell consists of internal parts that each have a function designed to further the growth and development of that cell as it interacts within the organs within the human form.

Earth precisely placed within the solar system
Assure the precisely placed Earth that gravity has no purpose.

I see function and, therefore, purpose in each element of life. I challenge you to name any element of existence that does not have purpose. Given all these layers of purpose that shape and form life, why do so many of us feel a lack of purpose?

Purpose Satisfies When it Touches the Heart

No doubt, for some purpose is as basic as survival. We need food, shelter, and companionship to meet physical needs. Eventually, this type of purpose feels hollow. The mundane passage of time, measured by hump days and paychecks, holidays and birthdays, beats onward as our physical capacities diminish and still the hollow is there. Mocking and teasing. Begging to be acknowledged and desperate for fulfillment. That level of purpose satisfies physical immediate needs but it fails to touch the heart.

Human beings carry an elevated form by way of intellect and the power to choose. That elevated form requires a sense of purpose beyond individual and beyond the physical. As children we ask ‘Why?‘. Without satisfactory answers, as teenagers we declare ‘What’s the point?‘. Without a higher purpose we will flounder, dissatisfied and unable to define ‘What’s missing?

Objective Reality Does Not Exist – Get over it!

The Flowers are Real

purple garden flowers in a vase
Flowers do exist objectively – but can only be perceived subjectively.

My assertion that objective reality does not exist does not in any way indicate that I do not believe in God or divine revelation. However, it is vital that we recognize and accept that our understanding of what is real and our evaluation of that reality, by logic or by sensual experience, will always be subjective. Some contend that an objective reality does exist outside of our perception of it and that is not what I contest here. I don’t pretend that the neighborhood I live in no longer exists when I am not there to perceive it. But I cannot either suggest that my perception of my neighborhood will be the same as the perception my own neighbor may have of it, filtered through our very subjective and individual lenses. I don’t deny the reality, but I do deny that knowledge of it could ever in any way be objective.

Beings Limited by Space and Time

shadow figure of man and dog standing before a starry sky and bright full moon
We are bound by space and time.

We are beings limited by space and time and perception. Recognizing those limits and that they restrict all of us in one way or another, should allow us to open our minds to each other. We all move through life as journeymen, born and raised in varied circumstance. To be here, we experienced birth and to leave here we will experience death. But that’s where the commonality of our journey ends. Regardless, the struggle should draw us closer. This blog is part of my journey and an attempt to share aspects of my experience with the nebulae, the multitudes formed of cloud dust seeking to understand purpose and living simply and humbly in the meanwhile.

One Woman’s Value

Elderly woman in yellow shirt and braids
Mom bright and sunny today

How do we measure value? I don’t mean value in the sense of cost, the cost of bread or ear buds. I mean personal value, self-value. What do you deserve? Can we even quantify personal value? Or, let’s get gender specific. Can we quantify a woman’s value? What about a mother’s value? Theoretically, it’s simple. Everyone will agree that mothers rule! But do we demonstrate in action to our mothers how much they truly mean to us? This question occurs to me as I watch my mother.

Today has been hard. I want to explain why I choose to label today as hard, but it is far more complicated than that.  It isn’t hard for me, so much. But it is hard for her. Some days are actually quite good and she wakes with some semblance of energy and moves about tending to her small chores. She feeds her dog and puts birdseed on the porch for the pigeons and sparrows. She checks her own sugar and writes the number on a calendar on the wall in the bathroom.

Elderly woman at park talking
Mom at the park

I have left chores for her, so she can feel her value. Although, I don’t measure her by what she does, she does measure herself that way. She often frets that she is not helping me. Not putting the laundry in the machine or washing the dishes. Such ordinary chores. What she does do for me she cannot even see. And I couldn’t explain it to her without drowning in guilt and shame.

I tell her, “You are my mom. I love you. You may not remember all that you have done for me, but I do.” I can never repay what she has done for me. Yet, when I think of my own children I feel like they don’t owe me anything. Isn’t that odd? That I, too, don’t feel like I deserve for my children to put their lives on pause for me, to escort me out of this reality. So, I suppose that is why she feels like she should be doing something for me.

How little we women value ourselves.

Money as a god

several ten dollar bills and hundred dollar bills
Is money your god?

Money has become a god in this materialistic world. People bow to money. They curve their personalities to earn it and compromise their values to accrue it. They equate money with peace and satisfaction. If this were so, then how does one explain the dissatisfaction of the wealthy? Those who crave it, bow to those who have it, blinded by their struggle. And those who have it don’t understand what’s missing.

Possessions have prominence – ever notice the cycle? When you ‘need’ something, you struggle for it. You shop for the best deal, you set aside, save up, strive to earn to buy it. You know that when you buy it, you will be complete. You will feel satisfied. After all…this was all you ever wanted to have. Throughout the entire process, acquiring it monopolized your every moment and took a lead role in each conversation with friends or loved ones. Your happiness hinged upon its possession. Then, finally, the day arrives. You have enough. You get it. You use it. You enjoy it. You spread the word. But it doesn’t fill the hollow. That wasn’t it. Another object entices you, initiating a fresh cycle. Each time, unexpectedly the hollow grows. Nothing seems to fill it.  Why?

Man pointing index finger, arrow pointing upwards with text success
Does success fulfill you?

Are we an empty society? But it seems so full…Expected accomplishments drive our lives: high school diploma, college education, job, marriage, family, then retirement. En route defines success. So busy-busy fulfilling material expectations, we rarely pause to consider anything beyond the material. Our each success unexpectedly feeds the hollow, its appetite voracious, burping a nagging sense of emptiness.

Can we feel complete satisfaction from material gains? That which we cannot measure by dollar signs or scales, those things we cannot capture in a photo or video, the essence has the most value – not measured or seen, but felt and experienced by heart. True personal gratification comes when we intimately and spiritually grasp the essence. Recognize the inter-connected-ness of spirit and body. The spirit has needs too. It demands elevation, not rungs on the ladder of success, but the exercise of intellect. When your struggle to ‘have’ correlates to your spiritual growth, only then can you gain success.

A Day in My Life – 2006

While living abroad, email provided an efficient, quick, and inexpensive way to stay in touch with my mom. So when we had electricity and when we could get the internet connection to work, I would fill her in on how our lives were passing so far away from her. I wrote from there, but didn’t realize at the time how much my words meant to her. After she passed away, I found a folder in which she had saved our email correspondence. She had printed each email and placed them in order. Reading through it now feels like a step back in time. One time my mother had asked me to write to her the details of how I passed a typical day. Reading what I wrote to her reminded me of so much. So I am posting the entry here as a reminder and an example of a day in my life…

Saturday, April 22, 2006

My days are fairly routine. Before sunrise I get up for my morning prayers. It is such a peaceful time when all is quiet and still dark, a gentle glow slowly fills the sky. I wake Sarah to do her prayers. Then she gets ready for school. The City School has been such a great experience for her. I am so thankful that her first school experience has been so positive and supportive. I give her cold milk and cereal for breakfast and give her an apple, chips, and sandwich for lunch. She carries a large thermos on a rope with her for water. Water is an absolute must, it is so hot here and her ride on the van (which has no AC) is about 1 hour there and 1 hour back in the hot sunshine.

You would think that the van ride would be a bummer for her, squished tight between so many children for such a long stretch. But her favorite time is van time. She has whipped all the other riders into shape. She is the leader and they pass the long ride with games, laughter, jokes, and silliness. Her nickname on the van is Makri, which means spider. They call her that because she has no fear of insects, spiders, or flies that happen to trap themselves on the van. While others scream, she carefully takes them in her hand and helps them to find their way back out to freedom.

While we wait for the van, we walk about in the garden. The sun sits just above the horizon, shining, but not yet suffocating. The air at this time is so cool and fresh, better than any AC could ever be. I pick jasmine flowers for Sarah to carry in her pocket. I don’t’ think I could ever convey to you the extremely delicious smell of our jasmine flowers. They are just small, simple, white blooms; but their sweet smell is so strong that each time you walk past the bush your nose fills with their delightful odor. When I place one close to my nose to smell it, I feel compelled to place it there again and again at each breath, wishing its sweet smell would never fade.

If the finches in their cage are particularly noisy, then we know that they need fresh food and water. It is so lovely to watch them after you fill their bowl with fresh seeds. They all swarm down onto the bowl perching on the edges of it and jumping right into the center to dip their sweet beaks into the food. When we put the fresh water in, we have to jump back because they begin to bathe right away splashing water all around the cage. It splashes out on us if we are standing too close. Sarah gets on her van at 7:00 am.

Yusef sleeps right through Sarah’s departure for school. He looks so dear and little laying on that large bed alone. Sometimes it seems he is so big and I wonder where the time went…he is 4 1/2 already. But when he sleeps, I can see the pudge on his fingers and toes still there. I lay down close to him and smell the top of his head…better than jasmine. I take this opportunity to rest before he decides to wake up. While we rest, Sana and Ahmed get up and eat breakfast and go off to their respective jobs.

When Yusef begins to toss and turn about on the bed, I know he will be waking soon. If I am particularly sleepy, I ignore his rolling about and keep my eyes shut. He is so sweet, if he sees I am still sleeping, even though he is in the mood to wake, he will just lay there and wait for me. He lays his head on my stomach and plays with his writing board or looks at the pages of a book. When I feel sufficiently guilty that he is so patiently waiting for me to wake, I throw off my laziness and hug him close. He gest so happy to see me awake and complains that it took me too long to get up this time.

After he washes his face and brushes his teeth, he picks out his clothes to wear. He is a very picky fashion child. His belt will match the slippers he decides to wear and the buttons on the shirt that he chooses. He likes to wear collar shirts buttoned to the top and tucked into his pants or jeans. When his attire is set, he must comb his hair and then he is ready to leave the room. He explores the garden, checking all the flowers and their smells, pulling some branches apart, stepping on a few ant hills, digging a few minutes in the dirt, etc…while I make up some breakfast.

At this time Ami is busy cutting veggies or sitting watching a few daily dramas that she enjoys. Ami loves vegetables. Everyday the veggie man (subziwala) pushes his cart down our street calling out, “SUBZIWLA…SUBZIWALA…” Neighbors come out, including Ami, to buy veggies from him. His rates are a bit elevated, but we don’t mind considering he has to push that cart around, up and down the streets in the hot sun just to bring veggies to our doors. Ami likes to buy cucumbers and peel them and put them on a plate salted for the kids.

Our masi, Razia, has come and left by now, having done the morning dishes, swept the floors and mopped them. She also cleans and irons some clothing items of Sana, Ahmed, or Ami. I wash all my clothes and the kid’s clothes myself. Sometimes Razia also cooks for Ami. Ami likes spicy food. Razia takes 1200 rupees a month for all that work…imagine, that is only 20$. Razia has 5 children (four girls and one boy) all under 10 years of age. Her husband does labor work in construction.

Sometimes Ami eats with Sana and Ahmed and sometimes she has not eaten yet, so I give her some tea or fried bread to eat with veggies. Lately she has days that she simply does not feel like eating and has to make herself eat. And other times she eats fine. Yusef likes to eat fried bread with egg but these days we have not been having egg from fear of bird flu. So he just eats his fried bread plain and drinks some milk. Sometimes he has apple or banana or cereal…whatever his mood. I eat tea! I put our breakfast on a tray and carry it into our room. Then he comes in from outside and knocks on our door as though he is a student asking permission to enter the school. I become the teacher.

This is school school time. We practice numbers and letters or tell stories and color. There are other students in our class, imaginary. And they each have set personalities. There is Salman, who is very naughty and I often have to call the peon to come and take him to the Principal. And Salman’s sister, Kathy, she always manages to fall and hurt herself to the degree of bleeding. I end up calling the peon to take her to the nurse. Kaynat and Sumbreen are pretty good girls and then there is James, the son of Samurai Jack (the cartoon character). James does everything well and fast. But Yusef has to be the best in the class. And when he falters or fails to concentrate on what I am saying or asking, I need only to say, “Ok Salman, perhaps you can answer this question for me…” And Yusef quickly focusses and says, “No, I know it.” And he gives the answer.

School school time is great fun for Yusef and for me. I enjoy seeing him learn things. The learning is slower than it was with Sarah. She was very fast. But I’ve heard that that’s expected with boys. Still we enjoy it. I feed Yusef while he learns. After school school, I head into the kitchen to make up some lunch or dinner. Some days, I dust. Some days, I clean our room -it is very dusty here…like Oklahoma. And every few days I have to wash clothes. Sarah’s uniform is white with a burgundy trim at the collar and sleeves. Cleaning whites by hand is a challenge.

At 3:00 pm, Sarah arrives home from school. She tells me about her day and eats her lunch. Then, she sets to her homework or takes a nap. If there is a cricket match on TV, she sits on the sofa and watches it pretending to do her homework simultaneously. She’s cricket crazy. Cricket is a very fun game, actually. I never used to think so. I thought it was so boring compared to baseball. But simply due to Sarah’s enthusiasm for the sport, I have also taken an interest in it. And then, one cannot ignore Yusef’s love for it either…probably also inspired by Sarah. When we first arrived here, Ahmed had bought a plastic cricket bat and ball set for Yusef. Yusef barely understood what to do with it. But when the matches started and Sarah began giving the matches so much attention and explaining them…then, suddenly, Yusef took interest in his bat and balls. He insisted I play with him all day. His batting improved so much, that we needed to graduate him from a plastic bat to a real wooden one. But all the wooden bats were made for larger kids, like Sarah’s size. So his father took a large bat to the carpenter and had a few inches cut from it and all the edges smoothed. Wallah, the perfect-sized bat for Yusef.

He surprises everyone who sees him play. They ball to him expecting him to hit a little hit and he thwacks it over the roof. One day some of Sana’s relatives came. They brought their little boy, 10 years old. The little boy was very sweet and well-mannered. I told Yusef to go and play cricket with him. They were playing in the front yard. That little boy balled the ball to Yusef and he struck it with such force that it hit a glass decoration frame we had hanging outside the door to our house. Needless to say the frame broke to pieces. But what was amazing was, that without our knowing it a lizard had been taking a snooze behind the frame (we have numerous lizards here…like newts…and they are pests; we have to struggle constantly to keep them out of our house) and there it was flat on the ground with a piece of the frame glass right threw it. Yusef became famous among Sana’s relatives for his batting skills after that.

Our evenings pass rather easily. Several times a day, we hear the call to prayer echo throughout the sky. I love that. So we never forget to do our prayers. Not that I ever forget anyway, these are my favorite moments of the day. I feel the presence of God around me at all times. I am so grateful for His gifts, this world, the air we breathe, the beautiful sceneries, my husband and lovely children…I don’t think I could ever properly thank Him for so much bounty. This life is not simple or easy and often very painful but here I see so many others suffering in ways that I cannot even imagine…seeing their troubles leaves me thankful for my small problems. So the best way I find is to remember Him as often as I can and whisper my thanks again and and again…

Sometimes, we are busy going to some gathering or other at a relative’s house, dinner , or a visit, or a celebration of some sort. There are many weddings coming up and so functions and celebrations here and there are a nice diversion. Sometimes, I sew pants for Sarah or Yusef or shirts or scarves…Sometimes, I read or chat with my sisters or you. By the Grace of God we are fine here. God Willing you are doing ok there. I think about you so often…I thought you might enjoy these details of how we pass our days. I love you…hugs and kisses and prayers…

It’s Saturday

The garden as seen from my mother's bedroom window
Her view of the garden

I sit in the quiet. I like the quiet. It’s Saturday. The air is chill. The sun hasn’t reach the garden yet. It teases from the rooftops of neighboring homes. In the summer it shines down directly over the garden rendering it impossible to sit and challenging to breathe. This morning I swept the patio, brushing dust and stones back into place. I even swept the pavers. Then, I filled the feeders and came inside. I sat on her sofa to wait for the birds to come.

A sparrow perched on a back yard bird feeder
Sparrows were her favourite


I want it to look lovely for her. She always liked things tidy and in their place. Now I have to keep it that way, don’t know when she may be looking. I don’t want to disappoint her.

The sparrows live in the Oleander bush outside the kitchen window. I should call it a tree actually, or perhaps just an enormously overgrown bush. I don’t think the sparrows care what I call it. They call it home. They live there because she kept the feeders full for them every day. With a steady food supply, only a fool bird would live anywhere else.

A large pigeon and two small sparrows sip water from a green cement bird bath
Pigeons and Sparrows share water

The pigeons and doves also come. They are a bit large for the feeders but that doesn’t stop them from trying to land there. They flutter their wings and twist to perch themselves, swinging the feeder slightly till they gain balance from its imbalance. Gently swinging, they dive their beaks into the seeds, eating a few and cascading a shower below for their comrades. The foragers amble over the patio, pavers, and stones pecking at the seeds that fall between. The garden is busy and full of life when the birds come. No wonder she loved to watch them. It’s a show whose theme remains the same but not a single action repeats. It’s difficult to pull my eyes away for fear that I’ll miss something.

I wanted to see them today…in the quiet. Do they know that she is gone? Do they feel her absence like I do? The stories from now belong to us. Her story has gone to print, no more edits or redos. And those of us left behind Chinese whisper the details.

Body Surfers

A Radius Maintained

Waves crash to shore in a plume of white foam
Incessant waves crashing to shore

We are all body surfers. We skim the surface of life, striving hard to stay afloat or ride the waves. Every so often one foot or the other dives down to the base for the purpose of propelling ourselves up and forward for another dizzying stint. We live in the illusion that we are moving forward. In reality, the currents pull us back, a radius maintained. The most important questions remain unanswered. Don’t you want to know? Are you afraid to see?

We persist, slowly consumed by an inexplicable emptiness. Some of us fill the emptiness with the pursuit of possessions. Each item, once acquired, provides temporary relief. Dilly, dazzle, and dance until the luster fades. Repeat. Some attempt to escape the emptiness by engaging in drug enhanced frivolity. Unwittingly perpetuating cycles of abuse, loss, and pain. Perceptions dulled to be sure, but can we ever really hoodwink our souls? We may make fools of the self, but, we can never really fool it.

It is aware. It is a nagging sensation of something missing or not quite right, a light cloud hovering over every accomplishment, an ever present sense that there must be something more to this life. If you sit quiet long enough, the soul speaks to you. So we make lists and rush from goal to goal. We shade the soul with shiny new frames set to trivial:trivial vision. I want to break the pattern. I want to hear. What will my soul tell me?

beautiful purple flower with green leaves at the base
Know me. Know You. Know all.

Stand firm.

Press my feet to the base.

Know me.

Know You.

Then, know all.

Be daring…and join me!

My Mother

Ready to go for a drive

My mother passed away December 16, 2017. A piece of me passed away with her. She was 84 and very ill. I knew that the day was coming. It comes eventually for us all. Still I didn’t want it to happen. I can’t explain how I feel. I can’t seem to think beyond the tears. I catch my breath and totter at the precipice. Did I love her enough? Did I do enough? All the mistakes I ever made stand blatant, sore, and suddenly obvious to me. Missed opportunities reveal themselves with a new, painful clarity. I drive past a beautiful, neighborhood park. “We could have taken mom here. We could have come early in the morning and strolled the path and watched the children play.” My son and I go to the mall. “We could have brought mom here more often. It could have been a weekly excursion.” But I had been at the time so self absorbed, purely caught up in the busy this and that of life, caring for mom, raising my son, driving to and from school and karate, and working in between. I had felt breathless with it all, struggling to maintain our world so fiercely that I failed to live in it.

My son sits with her

She sat long hours in her bed watching John Wayne movies and Walker, Texas Ranger. She often dozed in the middle and forgot what she had seen and would watch things again and again. How much time she spent alone, staring at that black box while I rushed around doing what? I could have sat with her then. I should have sat with her then. My insides ache from that which I did not avail. And now she is beyond me, outside my touch, a series of pictures and videos and moments lost. And so a piece of me has passed away. The womb I grew in, was born from, and laid my head upon isn’t here for me anymore. And it hurts so deeply.

She liked to have her hair braided

Several times over the five years we lived together, my mother had purged her belongings. Each time she weaned her possessions down, throwing away things she didn’t need, books she didn’t want, furnishings that she thought would be a burden for us when she passed on. So many times she had done this that I was certain there would not remain much for me to sort through at all. It gave the things left behind more value, considering they had ‘made the cut’ so many times. In a file folder, I found a binder. Inside, carefully printed, 3-hole punched, and placed in chronological order were every email I had sent to her as well as her email replies to me between June 2006 and September 2010. At the time I lived in Karachi, Pakistan. Calling was expensive and we relied on email for keeping touch. She saved all those words, a recorded conversation, separated by thousands of miles and occasionally gapped over months or weeks.

Our garden was her favorite place

I read them now, hungry and searching, hoping to find her -to complete her story…or mine. I find that I did tell her how much I loved her. I told her in every email. And she told me things, too. I found reference to her illness in July of 2009. I had no idea she would eventually die from that. That that scan was the first indication of the very illness that would take her away from me. She mentioned the results of a CT scan that showed she had an enlarged liver and an enlarged aorta with no clogs. She only said that the doctor had started her on a cholesterol medication. That small reference made and glossed over like so many others had no import then. Only now do I see the value of it and the imminent possibilities consequent of it.

Always a smile ready

Looking through our correspondence is a walk through time, moments frozen, much like photographs, glimpses of who I was then. I remember being that person. I’ve changed. She got to read me then and see me now. I’m so thankful that I’ve been here these last years. I’m grateful to have served her and for all that my being here has given me. I’m sad because I think in a way that I may have failed myself. I comfortably maintained and avoided digging deep. I missed opportunities to be with her because I feared what of myself I would see there. And now she is gone.

Flowers made her smile

Why didn’t I speak?

The Unsaid

Some things are better left unsaid. But how to un-think? Just because I haven’t spoken doesn’t change the reality. Or does it? It might alter others’ perception of me but not my awareness of myself. Words unspoken linger in the mind building bridges to no escape, towers and tunnels. They burrow and twist, torturous thoughts sharp-pointed, incessant. There is no escape from me. I am who I am because I was who I was and it shapes my will be.

Countless times I choose not to speak. I see the opportunity drift past, a window open and wide…inviting. If I jump through, I fall somewhere else, at a slightly different angle or sometimes on a different path altogether. It’s like a portal to another me. I hold my tongue and watch the portal pass, wondering if I made the right choice. Should I have spoken? Or more importantly, why didn’t I speak? My thoughts are still there, whether anyone else realizes it or not. My thoughts are still there, but there is no trail for anyone else to follow. I’m a ghost there and a ghost here.

A Coward or Cautious?

muslim woman standing before a tall tree with a large bird concealed within the branches
In silence…

I could define myself a coward, afraid and unwilling to announce my point of view. I could define myself as cautious, careful to observe and measure my words appropriately. Perhaps I am a cautious coward altogether. It’s so much safer to hide in my thoughts…or, is it? In my thoughts, un-tethered, I risk drifting.  But, never too far. For here in my thoughts at the core, my faith does prevail immutable. I know You watch over me. I lean on You, revolve around You, a pilgrim, hallowed in purpose. With You as my center, I am never alone. With You as my center, I can’t possibly lose my self  from myself. Silence doesn’t mean that I have nothing to say, it means some things are better left unsaid.

Fading Minds

She wonders the house, shuffling. Sometimes lucid, most times in a fog. She opens the front door and struggles to unlock the screen.

“What do you need, Mom?”

“Mind your own business. Why do you want to know?”

I get up and watch from behind. She knows the door opens, but the catch is tight. I have to push it myself to get it free of the jam. Silently, I thank God that it doesn’t open easily for her. Maybe next time she won’t try. If she were to find it easy, she could just walk out anytime and I’d have to wonder where she went. I’m here. But I can’t keep an eye on her at every turn.

She turns to shuffle back to her room and I close the main door and lock it.

“Don’t do that,” she hollers from behind me.

“Why?” I ask.

“I’m coming back. I want to get them outside.”

“Get who outside?”

My mom sighs in exasperation, as though I must be blind or a fool not to know, “I don’t want them here.”

It occurs to me that she is seeing people, people that I don’t see. I’ve heard hallucinations are common with this condition.

“There’s no one else here, mom. It’s just me, little boy, and you. And the dog, I suppose.”

She looks at me and scowls.

“What do you see? Who do you see?” I ask.

The scowl softens and she looks at me, dejected and fatigued, “I don’t know. Maybe I’m confused.”

I lead her back to bed, “Don’t worry, mom. You’re safe. No one is here but us and all the doors are locked.”

She groans as I help her swing her legs back onto the bed.

“I don’t know…anymore…”

“You just need to rest, mom. Close your eyes, now. In a few hours it’ll be morning.”

Every day it gets a bit worse. She remembers less. Hallucinates more. I didn’t see it coming. Or I rationalized it away. Everyone forgets things when they get old. Gets tired, easily fatigued. Will this happen to me? I am her daughter. For me the chances are high. The disorientation is the hardest. Each time she naps, I wonder who I will find when she wakes up. Will she be my mom? Will she be the 9 year old orphan she once was?  Will she be looping through a question cycle?

“What day is it today?”


“Does little boy go to school?”

“Yes, at 11:30 I will bring him to his school.”

Then after a few minutes.

“What day is it today?”

I purchased a small white board and put the answers to her most common questions on it. At the top I wrote, ‘Red button on remote turns tv off and on.’ I used a red marker for ‘Red.’ Beneath that I listed the names of her daughters, each followed by a single digit speed dial number she could use to call that one. There is a white space beneath that for me to write messages like, ‘l’m taking little boy to school,’ or ‘I’m out back working in the yard,’ etc. On the bottom left edge of the board I write the whatever day it is today.

She’s trained now to look at the board, but when she’s not in the room, she asks several times what day it is. I used to get frustrated and tell her, “Ok, now I’m not telling you again. Try to remember this time. I’ve told you several times already.”


She would fall silent. Now I understand though that she really can’t help it. I wish I could rewind my mean words. I wish I could tell her how sorry I am and know that she understands it and forgives me. But the time for sorry has passed. Now we travel only in moments. It just feels as though it has been so fast. How cleverly she covered it up before. This has been the most heart breaking experience of my life. In some ways I feel like I am losing her daily. As though she is dangling off a precipice. Initially I had her arm in my grip, but gravity and time have pulled her further from my grasp. I have her wrist now but what will I do when fingers frantically cling to fingers? I don’t want to let go. Who will she be then? Where has my mother gone? And out of the deep love I hold for her, I continue to minister her body, alive but empty.