I pounded my feet against the stairs, hurling myself away from her, twelve-year-old angst burning under my skin.
“I hate you. I hate you I hate you I hate you!”
The words burst out of my mouth, singeing my lips as they escaped. I knew instantly that it was a lie, but I didn’t care.
Late that night I lay in my bed, my head planted in that old feather pillow of my childhood, my eyes focused on the sliver of light under my mother’s bedroom door just across the landing from our room. Squeezing my eyes shut, I begged the Lord to forgive me, hoping that if He forgave hard enough it would take away the reality that I had said such a hurtful thing to the woman who had already suffered enough. Her spirit and her flesh had already been repeatedly beaten by my father - sometimes under the influence of alcohol, sometimes not. He dipped in and out of our lives until finally, sadly and blessedly, he left for good.
Though my dutiful conscience kept nudging me to tiptoe into her room and apologize, my feet never left their safe place under my covers.
The memory of that episode burned itself into my brain, and decades later, when my own kids were grown, I asked my mother for forgiveness. She chuckled.
“I don’t remember that.” She looked at me as if to say; “Really, Cori, do you think I took you seriously?”
Thinking back on it, I suppose, strangely, that I am a better person for having told my mother I hate her, though I do understand that it only worked for good because I did not repeat it very often. The moment allowed me to examine the truth of this woman: She never left me or any of my siblings, she remained true and holy, though she was a fallen angel, like the rest of us. She did what she did, and even she could not tell you why. She just followed her feelings. And because she had no idea how to do what she had to do, she turned to the only thing she knew for aid. That’s when her dance with her Lord began. He called to her, and she called to Him, and their steps aligned so that eventually in the end they swirled right off the stage and into the wings.
Today I stood at her grave in the chill of this day in May. I shifted the flowers someone had laid across the back of the lion that watches over her resting place, stood back, bidding her image to return to my mind, and whispered over and over again:
"I love you! I love you I love you I love you!"