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Tears of a Lifetime

By Linda LeMoine

PROMPT—I am grateful for ...

I have cancer, she said. Am I dreaming? A bell rang and darkness filled the room. The voice was matter of factly. The phone I held to my ear seemed inconsequential. Wait- she didn’t say hello or how are you, just, “I have cancer.”

I shook my body awake as though I was falling off a cliff. I tried to clear my head while I stared at my mom and realized it wasn’t a dream. Should I give my ailing 86 year old mother her phone? Do I let her hear that her only remaining sister is going to die?

As I handed her the phone, I watched in disbelief. I’d never seen her cry ... ever. Her aging body is breaking down the stone walls she spent a lifetime building. She can no longer hold in the stoic facade that all is well. Her plastic face is cracking and light is determined to shine through.

Her hard shell, now softening under my gentle touch, is oozing the truth she buried years ago. She really does care for her sister. She really does feel pain. She really does know love.

My godmother Pauline died of cancer two weeks ago. I no longer have a living entity for my middle name. My mother’s inner warrior has surrendered. Her caged soul has escaped as she cried tears of a lifetime I didn’t know existed.

Was this encoded in her destiny when she was born? Was her life designed to experience suffering only to be released in the final act?

Questions I can’t answer.

I feel the sacredness of the moment. The privilege of being a witness to this unconscious transformation. Suddenly I understand why I don’t cry either.

It will be the second assisted living in one month. Signs of dementia, a need for a pacemaker and her asthma were too much for the first retirement home, built for long forgotten Catholic nuns. The ones that still wear habits and black and white robes, reminiscent of her childhood days. But her declining memory, once a grave concern, gives way to an inner peace with a knowing that she has now come alive. Grace has entered through the back door. I hear myself say out loud … ”love you”, but I, the daughter, didn’t say it. It came through me to the ears that most needed to hear it.

My mind wanders back to the five of us kids kneeling on the cold linoleum kitchen floor saying our nightly prayers. My closest sister and I make eye contact under the table during the many Hail Mary’s Full of Grace … My mother and father take turns as they progress from bead to bead, prayer after prayer until the rosary is complete. Fidgety legs and arms, happy it’s over, run for cover in case another rosary needed to be said. My father had his prayer beads until his last breath, I watched in awe with his commitment to that Rosary. Day after day, night after night, he prayed. A type of meditation, I guess. My mother still has one hanging on her Toyota Corolla rear view mirror, even though she can no longer drive. Perhaps they believe prayer is transmuted through each bead in direct communication to their God. It is here, they will reconcile their past. It is here, they ask for forgiveness. It is here, I am grateful for the gift.

The gift of knowing that suffering is optional in my life. Later that night, I offer this insight to my young self and she too, cries tears of a lifetime. Sharing this, she experiences a closeness like never before. Although the longing still surfaces in unexpected moments, the pain she felt as an unmothered child has melted into the past.

Tears of a lifetime unite souls put together with reluctant grace.


Linda LeMoine has been a Professional Executive Coach and Trainer for over 25 years. Through COVID’S gift of time, she discovered writing. Linda hopes to continue inspiring a shift in consciousness through the portal of the written word. She lives on the North shore in Massachusetts, with her husband and twins.


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