I believe empathy should have another name, a word that’s descriptive without the clinical tone. I believe empathy, the word, should sound softer, a whispered acknowledging tone.
Empathy, whether you’re the giver or the receiver, an exchange really, is human hearts trading places.
I’ve finished Kate Motaung’s book and considered the technique of allowing the pages to fall open, deciding this is the place I should write of my connection with this story.
Still, each time I sought redirection, I wound up in the same place, the place we had in common, the place and time when grace filled the room.
Years ago, it was the most pitifully powerful memory I’d ever known.
Still is the most powerful, not pitiful or pity filled any longer.
The day was Christmas and the drive was three hours one way. My husband, the children, there was no discussion, we were going to see mama.
We arrived at the hospital and the nurse said, “She’s waiting.”
Her body was weak, her organs were weaker; but, she was expecting us. Her hair had been styled and she had on the most delicate of nightgowns I’d ever seen, more beautiful than any I’d ever known her to own.
She smiled. She “made over” my daughter and my son. She encouraged them, she reminded, she laughed a little, she gave them direction.
We gave her the gifts we’d brought and I remember that she thought my siblings might come later and my aunt had come and she had an expression of pure love and acceptance of whatever gift or not might be given.
She grew tired and it seemed we grew awkward, like clumsy adolescents not being sure what to do with our hands, none of us knew what to with our hearts.
A hospital room on Christmas Day and an hour or so with my mama and then three hours back home with little talk only uncertain sadness.
This was my mama’s last Christmas. I have never seen her more glowing, never seen her so resigned and simply open to come what may or may not.
I read Kate Motaung’s account of her mother’s cancer diagnosis and of her longing to be with her but, committed to stay on God’s course, a missionary in another country.
I was overjoyed by her telling of her mother’s travels to visit. I envisioned her love for Kate and her family and her maybe stubbornness to be with her daughter, to welcome babies, to leave them with good words and wisdom.
I smiled as I read of the trips for ice cream and the times her mama, weak and unable to be strong on her own, had a zest for life and humor, I could see them together making memories.
The mother giving all she had until she could give no more all for the sake of her children. I understood.
I struggled to imagine being so very far away and then realized prayer has no limits. God doesn’t set parameters as if to say oh, no the prayer you said well it’s way too far for the one you want it to help.
No, God is Sovereign. A mama three days away is no different from one three hours away when our living Father hears the supplication of a loving daughter, asking for mercy for her mama, and grace for the times together.
Towards the end of the book, Chapter 20 is titled “Grace”.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,”
Ephesians 3:20 ESV
There’s a surprise trip to visit her, to return from Cape Town, Africa to Michigan.
Her mama’s condo smelled of cookies. The machinery all around, sustaining her breathing and yet, there were fresh cookies.
I wandered then if her mama baked cakes and made pot roast and potatoes and I decided for myself, I believe she did.
The chapter ends with celebration; she, her mama and her sister, memories, more laughter, hysterical laughter.
And a realization.
And it was grace. Kate Motaung
“A Place to Land” is a comfort, it’s consolation and it’s a telling and retelling of a daughter’s unwavering confidence in God.
Mostly, for me it’s a beautiful gift of grace, grace her mother gave, and grace that surrounded her and guided her home.
Guided her daughter through grief to be able to share.
To have other “motherless daughters” understand, be understood.
This book to me, it was grace.
Empathy’s new explanation, I’ve decided.
It’s grace, grace from one who understands shared with another.
Thanks for understanding, Kate.
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