As we drove home from dinner the other night there was a freezing fog advisory. I had never heard of such a thing–fog when it’s below 30–but there it was, thick and thin and ethereal. It’s just air. It doesn’t push back or put up resistance; it parts and we move through it. But with the whole world full of it, the fog obliterated sight distance. We drove cautious with our fog lamps and five below the speed limit.
By the time we pulled in the drive the stuff was thick enough to obscure our neighbors’ mailboxes mere feet from our front bumper. I signaled and slowed as if I had had too much to drink, wary of late-night dog walkers and trash cans.
By morning the air was clear again. Fog falls and lifts without warning, the stuff of clouds draped over the landscape in tufts and bunches and then suddenly not at all, its absence a stark contrast after so much grayscale.
In this advent month of waiting, my mom is undergoing treatments that have a 5% chance of curing her of the cancer in her lymph nodes. As the church liturgical calendar turns toward Epiphany in January, it will be revealed whether the suffering she’s endured this month has had any effect at all.
I find myself clinging to the hope and promise of each of these traditions, grateful for the church’s space given to everything in its season. But I swing so easily, hope suddenly overcome by fog. I begin to anticipate all the things she could miss, potential Christmases without her enduring hospitality, her joyful presence. If the advent hymn begs, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” my verse instead this season sings, “O Stay, O Stay, Mother of Grace and Love.”
I should have forty more years with my mom, not these poor statistics ranging from six months to a decade, if she’s among the lucky ones. If I let myself sit in this chair and stare off into days I don’t know yet, every major and minor event throbs red without her, like blinking stoplights at a crossroads, all that’s visible in the thickest of fog.
She’s still here, alive, but this cave of anticipatory grief is easy to curl into. Leave me be; I might lose my mother.
Might. I might lose my mother. Maybe. Yes, cave dwelling self, you will lose your mother, someday – this of course is an inevitable truth – maybe today. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe in a decade. Maybe in forty years.
This ever-present possibility of walking in fog and falling into the cave, forces a certain attentiveness. I find the fog is stitched with silver wires, strips of light between drawn blinds at sunrise.
The wire is tangible, the only thing I can grasp and all that matters. It stands out against the fog’s opaque backdrop.
At first the fog subtracts everything else. “It doesn’t matter,” whatever ‘it’ is, “because my mom has cancer,” is the ongoing refrain in my head the first few days after her diagnosis. Details and trivialities melt away into oblivion, a massive wall of fog no headlamp or streetlight can penetrate.
But then comes the silver wire. It stretches like landlines between electric poles connecting me to my mom to my brothers to my dad, then down to my daughter and my sons and my husband and my dog, then out to my in-laws and cousins and aunts and uncles, then further out to friends who call and text and like and share and stop by just to say hi, how are you, are you okay, we’re praying for you.
In the midst of this thick fog some web of spirit stronger than the gray weaves in and out and around and through. All I have to do is reach out and touch someone (ha ha ha).
On the second day of my mom’s first cycle of treatments, I find myself punctuating all messages and phone calls with “Love you.” I substitute periods and exclamation mark end stops with smiley face emoticons. There is no room for doubts right now; what I have to say to you is only love. Love, love, love, love is all you need. All you need is love.
The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”
There’s something about the caution needed in the fog that makes you find the silver wire, follow it and trace it to its source. There you will find comfort. There you will find grace.
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.