Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Train to Heaven

When Cael was born, I had a very romantic idea of what motherhood would be.  I spent hours nuzzling his soft neck and whispering secrets in his ear about the places we would go and the dreams I saw for his future.  His essence oozed sweetness, and I knew that his life, and mine with him, would be magical.

Somewhere we got off course.  Well, not really, but sort of.  This life with my children is still a dream, but one that lacks the graceful ebb and flow I'd anticipated as life grew inside of me.  Instead, I've learned that the drama-- the brutal highs and lows, the milestones reached as I watched from behind the camera with tear-filled eyes and even the moments when I felt I had nothing left to give, were all designed in a master plan.

I've learned that the moments are often unexpected.  Moment like the other day, a day like any other, with Graham snoozing peacefully in his bed while Cael chanted the words to his favorite "Choo Choo Soul" song as he played with his trains.  I smiled when I heard him sing. 

 "Standing in line at the Chuckabee Station.  Get a ticket for the bullet train..."

"Cael, honey, it isn't 'Chuckabee Station'.  It's 'Japanese Station'."

"What is a Japanese station?"

"It's a train station in a country called Japan."

"Where is Japan?"

"It's very, very far away.  Pretty much on the other side of the Earth."

"Wow, that's far."

I left him to tackle some laundry, only to bring a basket down and smile again as Cael continued singing.

"Standing in line at the Chuckabee Station..."

Oh well.  He likes it better this way.  I sat down with him, planning to read a story before sending him to bed and the uncertainty of sleep.  At night, alone in our warm home, his agile fingers drove his trains across the room, whizzing around curves and smoothly passing under bridges. 

"Cael, do you want a story before bed?"

This one of his favorite rituals, and also one of the only times when his attention is great enough to listen to a story.  But this time he paused before walking over to me.

"Do you miss your Mommy?"

I knew he'd ask someday.  I'd mentioned her before but deliberately kept the conversation light, wanting to avoid the fear and unnerving realization that one's mother, one's world, could be taken awake in the blink of an eye.

"Of course I do.  I miss her everyday."

I miss what I remember.  I miss falling asleep to the sound of her bathwater running from the warmth of my bed.  I miss how she'd set out a big pot of water for me and let me stir in whatever herbs I could find on the exotic shelves of her spice cabinet.  I miss kneeling in the garden with her as she pulled weeds, feeling the softness of the dirt between my toes.  I miss her smell.  I miss seeing her read in her bed by her tiny book light.  I miss the days before she was gone.

But today, over 15 years later, I don't remember much else.  I was always aware of how loved I was, how wanted.  But few memories remain from the eleven years we spent together. 

Will Cael always remember me?  Even if I lived forever, would he sit with his young son and share with him the details of a childhood filled with love?  Could he share the story of when he rode a steam engine?  Could he recall the smell of my perfume or the way Joel's whiskers felt on his cheek?  Or would it all slowly fade away?

"Why did she die?"

"She got very sick."

"Didn't she have medicine?"

"Yes, she did.  But she was sick for a long time and the medicine couldn't help anymore.  But you don't need to worry about that.  I'm healthy."

"Oh, okay."

Is there ever an appropriate way of assuring your child that you will always be there for him, yet preparing him for the fact that you might not?  And my biggest dilemma-- how do you soak up every moment when you're so busy just trying to get through each trial-filled day?

"But you know what's cool?  Now she's in heaven and she can watch over you all the time.  I'm sure she loves seeing you play and learn things at preschool.  And boy, does she ever love you!"

"She loves me in heaven?"

"Absolutely.  Just as much as she would have loved you here."

"But where is heaven?"

"You know, we've talked about it before.  It's very far away.  But it's a great place."

"Can we go there?"

"Nope, not now.  You only go there when God is ready for you to go."

However long this life lasts, I hope I never forget conversations like these.  I hope I never forget the way my boys run and giggle, unabashedly, as they head outside to play.  I hope I never forget how their freshly washed hair smells after a bath.  I hope I never forget how they ask for kisses each night and how willingly I gave them.  I hope I never forget how this life, although different from what I anticipated, exceeds all expectations.  And I hope I never forget how much they love me.

"Is it very, very, VERY far away?"


"I think I know where it is, Mommy."

"Really?  Where?"

"It is all the way around the Earth to the Japanese station."

I knew he was listening. 


  1. Loved this post--and that first picture is just precious!

  2. Shawna- thank you! That is my favorite picture of Cael and me.

  3. Wow, that was very powerful & emotional. I'm sitting here with tears flooding down my face. I complain a lot about how hard taking care of an infant is but this is a good reminder to enjoy every minute, thanks.

  4. Mary, thats was sweet. if you dont mind id like to share a few things i remember about your mom!! I remember when id come spend the night how we got cinnamin toast and hot choclate before bed! i remember how she would have you lay on your back on the counter while she washed your hair! I remeber always being super comfortable at your house. there was so much love and comfort it could be felt even outside of those walls! Samantha Wheeler :)

  5. Mary, Remember when I "baby sat" you and we would stay up until right when your mom and dad got home from music practice (to this day the SNL skit of the couple always makes me think of them ha!)You would run like the wind up to your bed and try no to be out of breath when they looked in. Your mom would ask if the night went ok and what we let's see recorded ourselves singing songs, made up dances, and watched California Raisens Christmas...oh and homework. What a beautiful blog and excellent writing. Your boys will not only have the mental memories, but the ones you are preserving for them through your writing. Cael will have quite the stories to share with his children some day!

  6. Mary - What a beautiful post. I'm sure your mom would love to be remembered in this way. You have such a gift of creativity, it had to have started early, probably from your loving mama. Thank you for reminding me to pause the frantic pace we move at and look at my boys where they are today and enjoy the opportunity God gives me to love on them, right now. By the way, we've only met in person a few times (I go to Adventure of Faith and was in youth group with the Foreman kids) but your family is close to my heart and in my prayers. ~Jennifer Young

  7. Liz- It IS so hard, and I know that I fail daily to truly appreciate them. But hopefully when it's all said and done I can remember what's really important.

  8. Lindsey- I remember those nights very well! Remember hitting that ball with the fireplace sticks? That was a great game. I'm glad we have reconnected!

  9. Samantha- I always had so much fun with you! I just came across some pictures from a boat ride we took on a field trip. I don't remember it well, but we both look so happy! I may have to dig those up...

  10. Jennifer- Thanks so much for your kind words! I love knowing that everyone out there will still get to know our boys even though we're half a country away. We appreciate your thoughts and they are being returned to you from Iowa!

  11. Such a beautiful post. And, a great reminder to appreciate every day - the good and the bad.

    1. Thanks, Sarah! It's a struggle, but we're trying!

  12. Thank you for sharing, Mary. Such a great reminder and inspiration to treasure each moment, because you never know how many are left. I love reading all you write. There's a poem called "To My Grown-Up Child" about a parent who was "too busy" cooking and cleaning to do things with their child like reading picture books, realizes once their child is grown how ample time is now and wishes to "go back and do the little things" the child had asked. Your boys (and you!) are blessed to have moms who did and are doing and treasuring the "little things." You're an inspiration Mary, and a blessing to your family and sounds like following in your mom's footsteps. Cael and Graham might not remember every trip or story or craft or cake, but they will each treasure certain memories and no matter what, they WILL remember the love, as you do.

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words! I sure hope they do have fond memories as I have!

  13. Mary, You are an amazing mother! The boys will always remember what a wonderful childhood they had and how your love was such an anchor thru every single day. Someday I want to hijack the blog to write about how the addition of a magnificent baby girl changed the life of our family. What a surprise and what a blessing you have been since the day you were born. By the way, I remember when you were a teenager and you had your own agenda. I wondered if our amazing bond was broken; little did I know it would stretch across the US and later bring us back together!

    1. Amy- I love you! There really aren't any other words to say!

  14. Mary, this post is beautiful and your entire blog is such a great reflection of the love you have for your children. I too wonder if something were to happen to me, would my son remember me and know how much I love him. No matter how many times I hug him, kiss him, and tell him that I love him, reading this post (with tears in my eyes) is a reminder that it can never be too much. Thank you for sharing this and reminding all of us to cherish the time we have with our families. All the best to you and yours. -Marie

  15. Thanks, Marie! I think we will all question ourselves as mothers, but as long as we try to show the love everyday, it should all work out.

    That's my plan for now... :)

  16. Tears. Just tears. keep writing.


Leave your own "ism". Cael and Graham double-dog dare you.