Submitted by Emily Wood
What I Learned From My Mother
by Julia Kasdorf
I learned from my mother how to love
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
in case you have to rush to the hospital
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars
large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole
grieving household, to cube home-canned pears
and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins
and flick out the seeds with a knife point.
I learned to attend viewing even if I didn’t know
the deceased, to press the moist hands
of the living, to look in their eyes and offer
sympathy, as though I understood loss even then.
I learned that whatever we say means nothing,
what anyone will remember is that we came.
I learned to believe I had the power to ease
awful pains materially like an angel.
Like a doctor, I learned to create
from another’s suffering my own usefulness, and once
you know how to do this, you can never refuse.
To every house you enter, you must offer
healing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself,
the blessing of your voice, your chaste touch.
Thank you, Julia Kasdorf, for writing these words that tell about my Mother too, and what I have learned from her. She recently celebrated her 99th birthday and continues to supply me with comfort and joy. We visit now by telephone. Her listening ear and reassuring tones still give me courage and strength. She continues to teach me the power of presence. She is a giver.
To honor her, I follow the pattern I learned, to offer hospitality, to welcome the stranger, to speak with kindness, to listen with empathy, and to show up with cut flowers or banana bread in hand. She teaches me still, that “love” is an action verb and I strive to do as she has done. From what I have learned from my Mom I have gleaned my purpose, to make love visible in my community.
Learner, Thinker, Writer: Emily Wood serves the Trinity School community as a receptionist.