Mum went swimming the other day. She wore a brand-new bathing suit. It’s been three years since she recovered from brain cancer, and I don’t ever remember her swimming before.
My brother says she has. He says I just don’t remember and he says this with his face bent down a little, protecting the memory. But for all of our long-distance trips in our rusted mini-van with the hand-sewn flower curtains and no air conditioning, for all of our tenting in Arizona and the sun drying us off the minute we stepped from the water, I don’t remember Mum in a bathing suit.
She was always covered. The home-school way, some would say, because we were home-schooled and she wore long flowing skirts or a jean dress and I wore the shortest shorts I could find. My long legs like sticks for the anorexia and Mum didn’t know how to handle her willful oldest child so she handed me over to Dad who’d been too busy writing a sermon to see what I’d done. And I’d be spanked with a hand or a wooden spoon or belt, and my shorts got shorter.
Showing skin got me attention and I was starving. God didn’t approve of me, I knew that, because vanity was a sin and modesty was the Christian code but I was too hungry for love to be fed by religion.
If I’d noticed Mum swimming, I might have felt a little freer. All I knew was, I shouldn’t care so much about my looks and that Mum shrugged out of Dad’s embrace when he tried to hug her and she didn’t think she was beautiful so she didn’t tell me I was.
And then Mum got brain cancer. I went home at 26 to take care of her, to feed her from a spoon and read to her when her head drooped and to help her to the toilet. To change her Depends on the days she slept straight through and to sing to her when morning came. I went home to help Dad who never stopped trying to hug his wife and finally she returned his hugs when she was awake.
And modesty wasn’t an option for the woman who couldn’t pull up her pants or pull on her shirt and she couldn’t stop telling me how beautiful I was.
I thought I was going to lose her. And I wished I’d never stopped hugging her those two years when I was sick. Because Mum was dying and no amount of anything mattered for the way she suddenly did.
And then, after eight years of dying she was suddenly gloriously alive. The doctors rubbing their heads, because the tumor was gone. And in the face of death, life – no matter its size or shape or details – becomes excruciatingly stunning. Like the sun, after days of rain.
And Mum began to walk and talk again. She stopped sleeping all hours of the day and re-learned how to cook and clean. And she hung up a plaque that said “Life’s short, eat dessert first.”
Then she put on a swimsuit and went swimming.
And I don’t know that she’s ever looked so beautiful.
Friends, I am a former anorexic who’s written a book, along with Dr. Dena Cabrera, called Mom in the Mirror: Body Image, Beauty and Life After Pregnancy, which celebrates our femininity and our strength as women, while teaching us how to LOVE ourselves so we can, in turn, love our husbands and our children.
I’m giving away FOUR HARD COPIES, so don’t forget to enter to win on Monday’s post! We will choose a random winner at the end of the week.
Otherwise, you can pick up your own copy of the book HERE or at any Barnes and Noble bookstore. (For the book trailer, endorsements and sample chapters, please visit the official book website HERE)
Emily Wierenga is an artist, blogger, journalist and the author of Chasing Silhouettes and Mom in the Mirror. She blogs regularly at www.emilywierenga.com. You can also connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn or Etsy.
Powerful. Thank you.
Thank you for reading Marty! e.
Shelly Miller says
This is so very touching. I have a friend that survived an aneurysm and all her natural inhibitions vanished. It completely rejuvenated her marriage. What I’m struck with is the length of time that your mother was sick and then recovered. Eight years! I would call that a bonafide miracle. But you already know that.
Yes Shelly! I agree… it’s a bonafide miracle. Love you. e.
PS. I so appreciate you seeking out this post and commenting on it, Shelly, even though the link was incorrect. You are dear to me. e.
Jen Ferguson says
It strikes me as such a paradox how sometimes we have to go through the ugliness of this world (i.e. cancer), but through this, we find ourselves surrounded by moments of beauty that perhaps would not have risen any other way. And this, it seems, is God’s grace.
SO, so true Jen… Yes. God’s grace. I really appreciate you finding this post and commenting on it even though the link was incorrect. You are a good friend! xo
Kimberly Amici says
I can so identify with this, “but I was too hungry for love to be fed by religion.” The choices I made when I was young, in college, all came from this. I am so thankful for God’s love and grace.
Thank you Kimberly, for relating to my story. May the Lord bless you, friend. e.
all the work God was doing behind the scenes
creating more miracles than we can see with our natural senses
Amen. Love you Karin. e.
Kelly Greer says
You made me cry!
Hugs sweet Emily., hugs,
Aw 🙂 I’m sorry for making you cry sweet Kelly. Love you. Hugs, e.
There’s always such redemption in your stories, Emily. Thank you for sharing this one. It’s wonderful to see you here sharing your message of hope! XO
Thank you sweet Kim! You are such an encouragement to me, friend. e.
I found out that anything is beautiful as long as you are happy. Some tell me fat is bad, but it isn’t. When you cannot gain weight, and bones stick out everywhere and your husband asks why.
I’m glad your mum recovered. It must have been hard. It’s important to hug those you love. A hug is a very important part of everyday life. Glad your mum finally told you you are beautiful.
“anything is beautiful as long as you are happy.” what a great perspective karyn! thank you.
Thanks for these touching words. I love hearing about that plaque your mom put up :).
“And in the face of death, life – no matter its size or shape or details – becomes excruciatingly stunning.” So true. Much love Emily….
oh thank you Julie… So much love to you dear friend. e.
This is beautiful. All of it.
Blessings, my friend.
Thank you sweet Carolynn. Love you so, friend. e.
Emily, I am so encouraged, so emboldened to see this day with new eyes. I am so grateful you write down your life, in these glimpses. They stay with me. Oh, you as a teenager, your leaning over your mom . . .and her swimming! Just glorious.
This means a lot, Jennifer. Thank you friend. Bless you, e.
Michelle DeRusha says
I love when you write about your mom, Em.
this makes me teary-eyed Michelle. I love my mum so much, and am grateful to be able to share her story with you. Love you friend. e.
This story gives me chillbumps, Emily. How good God is to give such redemption. I’m so grateful your mum is doing well and that you are healthy and fed by the bread that never leaves one hungry. Love to you, lady.
“fed by the bread that never leaves one hungry.” YES. So perfectly put dear Laura. Love you so much. Miss you. xo
Myrlande G says
I’ve been following your blog 2 months ago. You were featured on Holly Gert blog’s. I enjoy your writing a lot. I’ve been bless and encourage every time I open your site.
Thank you for being honest while sharing your personal life. Your mom testimony is uplifting.
oh Myrlande, it’s so great to meet you! Thank you for the follow, and for uplifting my heart today friend. Bless you! e.
Crying. I’m so glad she tells you how beautiful you are. I’m so glad for the lost-and-found hugs. I’m glad for her glorious return to life and I’m glad that you are well and speaking to those who need you. This post made me glad all over – that’s why I’m crying. Grace does that.
Truthful beauty. As a 15-year cancer survivor I so get this and nod my head a huge “yes” to miracles and being vulnerable~ swimsuit and all.
E W Wright says
Very moving, Emily. Our mothers never stop teaching us, do they? Blessings. EW
Amanda @wandering says
This speaks of such redemption on so many levels, Emily. Beautiful and powerful and healing even to just me the reader.
S. Rae says
it is SO good to think back and thank God for the way He brings us through each struggle and lack, meeting our needs and showing us how to open up our hearts to each other.
I love picturing Mom’s joy and freedom during August’s family vacation; I’m pretty sure she was in her element, with her hubby, kiddos & grand-kids around! 🙂 I’m looking forward to getting some more sister-time with you & Mer later this year!! woot!
Thank you for caring for her (and us) the way you did and do, and for your hugs 🙂 Words & touch are powerful.
P.S. I still remember you saying, “Hey, beautiful!” to me when I was in grade 8 or 9! That meant a LOT! Precious words.. gracias!
I’m teary eyed. Such a story, a miracle story.
Charissa Steyn says
This spoke to me so much! What an incredible story as well- God is soooo good!!! So glad your mom is happy, healthy, and fully alive!
Kris camealy says
Such an amazing story, Em. It’s so wild the way God works–and this? How He used your moms illness to heal a whole family? It’s amazing and beautiful–and so like God to be so generous. Mi am so thankful for your willingness to tell the stories. Love you.
Kris camealy says
*I am (not mi am) oops!
oh my, thank you for sharing your history. I have to wake my kids for school, but I must simply say. You are a Blessing to me through revealing your history and all the ugly behind the beautiful mask that you wore every day. And may I say, “Bravo, for acting out, for creaming in your way that you need… That you were not ok”
My almost 6 year old is strong willed, steel willed is more accurate, she acts out when she can’t say “I need help and I don’t even know why”
Blessings. TYJ 🙂 GIG
<3 I wish it were audio.
My mom had a brain tumor removed about 6 years ago. It was the size of a golf-ball. They said it’d been there growing, maybe 10 years – and it explained so much – and I was able to let so much go. Now, six years later, she’s happier, copes better – believes Him better. Sometimes forgiveness is only given – never taken – just stops cold in the giving. I like what you said, “no amount of anything mattered for the way she suddenly did” – the forgiveness received and restoration growing –
Glorious…love your story and your mom’s….simply beautiful in its redemption…xo, Em 🙂
you always make me cry.
in the most wonderful of ways.
ps: i loved the book