A Family Fable

Anne Lamott’s birthday essay about “every single thing” she knows at the age of 61 has gone viral again. I was among the 86k people to like it on Facebook. What’s not to like about Lamott’s delightful blend of spiritual wisdom, dark humor, and love of humanity? Witness this from Lesson #1: Life is a precious unfathomably beautiful gift; and it is impossible here, on the incarnational side of things. It has been a very bad match for those of […]

What Poetry Doesn’t Tell You

Ok, this morning’s earlier post was the public story, but as you might of guessed, there’s a private story lurking behind it. Or more accurately, a story “Formerly Known as Private,” since I’m about to tell it. The public story was proper and tidy. This story is going to be messy, because I’ve just gotta get it down and then get on with grading all those papers. What set off the explosion of gloom I alluded to was simply a […]

Home is So Sad

This summer we laid Mom to rest. A gentle euphemism—”laid to rest.” What I mean is that we buried her ashes. We did it twice, actually, because Mom wanted to be buried next to her beloved parents, Dad wants to have his ashes scattered at their beloved lake cottage, and they both wanted to be together forever. So we split the difference, and put half of Mom’s ashes in a cemetery in Malden, Massachussetts, and half in Highland Lake in […]

Eleanor Roosevelt and Shirley Temple

Memory Is Something If You Give It Away

Recently, I was knocked flat for a day by a stomach virus. I couldn’t do anything but lie in bed, which gave me a lot of time to miss Mom. In my half-asleep state, I imagined a conversation with her—the one I wish I’d had, before it was too late. It began with me asking, “How does it feel to have Alzheimer’s? How does it feel in your head?” Her answers were clear, but just like with a vivid dream, […]

2014 Holiday Letter (from Matt Churchill)

February 14, 2015 Dear friends and family, Happy Valentines Day! 2014 was an eventful year in the Churchill household, with each kid hop-skipping off to new schools, and Suzanne leaping into a sabbatical, while I learned the old age shuffle. Yes, the “highlight” of my year was arthroscopic knee surgery. Now I’m not one to complain, but you would think that when I’m going under the knife, Suzanne would be clutching her rosary beads and praying for my welfare. Instead, […]

Into the Wild, Precious Life

When your mother has just died, people come up to you with empathetic eyes and soft voices and ask, “How are you?” So genuine is the concern that I feel like I should burst into tears and confess that each day is a trial, that I feel as if I’m plodding through mud, dragging my sinking heart behind me like a heavy stone. Instead, I admit, I’m doing surprisingly well—so much so that I wonder if my heart has become a cold stone. Ads for the just-released movie Wild deliver a […]

Momento Mori, or Motherless Me

  “All hope abandon, ye who enter here,” because you are proceeding through the gates of shameless, narcissistic navel gazing. My mommy has died, leaving me motherless, which seems like good justification for ruminating, even if there’s little reward in it for you, my hapless reader. I spent the long weekend in Connecticut for Mom’s Memorial Service, which was lovely. I wish she could have been there to enjoy it! Friends and family gathered from as near as the choir […]

In Memoriam: Valerie Jean Gates Wintsch

Valerie J. Wintsch, 75, died peacefully on January 2, 2015, at Arden Courts in Hamden, CT, from complications of Alzheimer’s. A vivacious, well read, and intellectually curious lady, Valerie loved good books, music, friendship, and laughter. Most of all, she loved her family. She was a devoted daughter, wife, mother, and grandmother. Born in Naugatuck, CT, in 1939, Valerie was the daughter of teacher Dorothy Moses and chemical engineer Charles Gates. She grew up in Elmira, Ontario, a tight-knit community […]

This Hour Her Vigil

The Christmas ornaments, decorations, and lights are packed away, a New Year’s Day ritual that is tedious but satisfying. This year, my sense of accomplishment is troubled by a nagging sense of something unfinished, something demanding my attention. But the task before me is not mine to complete: it is my mother’s. She is dying. We are merely keeping vigil. Her Alzheimer’s has run a rapid course since her diagnosis 3 years ago. Nevertheless, this last stretch has caught us […]

Of Mere Being

I’ve just returned from a much anticipated, much dreaded three-day sojourn in Connecticut, where I saw Mom for the first time in her new living quarters, an extended care facility called Arden Courts. My family had given me a pretty clear picture of what to expect, but they couldn’t prepare me for the emotional wallop of seeing her, dozing in the common room, wheelchair-bound, listing to the side, head tilted back, arms stiff, legs atrophied, feet puffy in her unused shoes. […]