My mother, Peggy (Hatter) Pemberton, would have turned 83 this week, on Saturday, May 13. Instead, she died 2½ years ago, on Saturday, September 27, 2014. My sister Margie and I have collaborated together for today’s post.
We don’t know if those who have died have any awareness of what is happening on earth after they go. Maybe, as Paul suggested, you are “asleep” and, well, sleeping. Or perhaps you are in the shadowy state of Sheol and somewhat aware. We know better than to read a parable to define the afterlife, but then again maybe it’s true that all that separates us is a “gulf” or canyon you cannot cross – so while you keep up with everything that’s happening here, you are not allowed to post anything on Facebook™. We really don’t know. But on the chance that you are allowed to at least get messages:
We miss you.
I (Glenn) still think of you every Sunday when the Dallas Cowboys are playing, even though I know you would have been then one calling to gloat the most over the past couple of years. I think of you even more when they are losing, not just because I don’t get to gloat, but because I think about calling you – only to realize again that I can’t. (If you haven’t gotten the news, we’ll skip on the Texas Rangers – even though they have had good seasons since you left, it has not been a pretty once the playoffs began.)
We found your notes about your fight with polio and months in the hospital. Of course Glenn and I knew about your polio, the few muscles you had in one arm, and the post-polio syndrome that hit you. We talked to B— and N—, asking question after question, amazed at hospital policies that kept you separated from your family for so much time and even more amazed at your spunk: tricking nurses, reading to the other children, not staying in bed, even stealing a banana from your roommate to eat (the first solid food you didn’t spit back up since coming to the hospital). Beating Polio. We realize we talked a lot, but you never said much about your life, about the polio, about your life before dad, about dad, about the things that really mattered – about you. We wish we had asked more questions when we could (and made you talk J).
Thanks for showing me (Margie) the MRI and telling me about dad’s diagnosis, even reminding me where the important papers were kept in the closet (the day before you got sick). Mom, I remember how tired you looked that day; no, more than tired – weary. You made it easy for me to find the fire-proof box and all your financial records after you died. You also know we are both frustrated with you about one little matter (or two). Above all, however, we are amazed at how well you managed such a small income – not just at the end, but while we were growing up. It never occurred to us that we didn’t have much, and certainly not that by most definitions we were “poor.”
Mom, I’ve come to realize how much more Margie noticed and dealt with at home than I did; in part because she was oldest, in part because she was observant, and in part because of the activities that drew me away. Even so, only now are we both aware of how much you shielded us and protected us. Only now do we fully realize all that you were doing for us. We know it’s too late to say it and know for sure that you hear us, but just in case:
I (Glenn) now understand that it is mostly because of you that I found a second identity at church with so much encouragement there to become a preacher. I also recognize the privilege of going to Abilene Christian University and your role in making this financially possible – taking a job while I was gone. I know you never really understood why I pursued graduate education, eventually trading the pulpit for the college classroom, administration, and writing. And I’m still not certain how you felt about the trajectory of my teaching and my writing; what I thought and where I was growing. We just didn’t have the uncomfortable conversations in our family; and mom, we want you to know we understand why this was not possible, and still:
We wish we had talked more.
Mom, you know that Glenn and I used to send flowers for Mother’s Day; a little impossible to do now. Instead, we hope you get to read this note – or if necessary it will fly over the canyon and into your dreams. The older we grow and the more we experience, the more we realize how much you loved us. We just want you to know, somehow, how much we miss you and how much more we love you today than on that terrible day in September over two years ago.
We love you,
Margie and Glenn
Glenn Pemberton is a minister turned professor turned writer. After serving churches in Texas and Colorado, Glenn completed a Ph.D. (Old Testament). He then taught at Oklahoma Christian University before coming to Abilene Christian University in 2005, retiring as professor emeritus in 2017 due to a severe chronic pain. Glenn now spends his time writing for the church. Along with short essays he has published four books, including The God who Saves: An Introduction to the Message of the Old Testament (2015), and Hurting with God: Learning to Lament with the Psalms (2012). Glenn and his wife Dana continue to live in Abilene, Texas.