3-13 “No. You take care of YOU.” March 13, 2015

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Emily and Cynthia in Cold Springs, NY – November 2014

It’s difficult to know what to write–how to write–on bad days. This week hasn’t been all bad, but it has been very, very difficult. The clarity and the humor that filled last weekend seem distant, and what’s left sometimes leaves me feeling hollow. The anger I was struggling with earlier in the week has simmered into a kind of desperate sadness, a grief for something that isn’t completely lost. I find myself thinking a lot about my mom’s last visit to New York in November. We took the train up to Cold Springs one day to go antiquing, and spent most of the day just sitting in a little hole in the wall diner, talking about our lives. That’s mostly what we do when she visits–we eat good food, we rest, and we talk. She’s always been my first call when the slightest thing happens in my life, and I can always count on her to hear me and know what to say. She gets me. I think that’s what’s so difficult about this for me–losing the person that has been my person for so long (even though she’s still here, in so many ways).

The spread of the cancer has caused her an incredible amount of pain in the past few days, which means more pain medication, which amplifies her disorientation. She is very weak–unable to hold herself upright or stand at all, and her appetite has nearly disappeared–except for breakfast food, strangely. She never used to eat in the mornings, but now she’s giving my cooking skills a much needed workout. Upon request I have revived a favorite French Toast recipe, and tomorrow I’ll be attempting crepes! Things like that give me purpose, move me forward through the days.

But what’s missing for me is her conversation. Every once in a while she will just look at me and it feels a second away from normal, and then it’s gone. The last interaction that truly made sense between us came the day we brought her home from the hospital–and she has no memory of it now. She held my hand and asked what was going to happen next and I told her not to worry, that I would take care of it. I said that I would take care of our family, that I was here and I wasn’t going anywhere. She looked at me and firmly said, “No. You take care of YOU.” I cried, and laughed because that is so her, and then promptly put that advice from my head because there was just so much to doAnd now I’ve spent the last 2 weeks with her nearly every second of every day. I am in complete control of every drug that goes into her body, of every meal she occasionally consumes. I keep detailed notes about blood sugar levels, and how that affects the sliding scale of her insulin. My only interactions with people that aren’t her or my family have been stilted, awkward attempts at connection that just sort of fizzle out at the end. I’m an emotional wreck, but I’m a great compartmentalizer! I am completely, totally, not taking care of me at all. Gentle but firm prodding from both my dad and my sister proves that they see the seams coming apart, too.

My mom wrote in a note to me last summer after we spent the week at a quiet Florida beach, that “while we are all essentially alone, our connections to people we love and who love us makes our aloneness not lonely.” It’s time to pull on those connections, to take care of me, so that I can better take care of her. I think one of the first steps is to give thanks to all of you, for continuing to love us through it. My mother has been better about this. She did a Devotion for the Upper School at BA in November all about the difference between saying thanks and giving thanks–and to be honest, I’m not sure exactly where to start, so I’m going to stay right here and do something small: respond to your comments, your emails, your texts. I’ll warn you that I’m bad at this, but I feel that it’s important. Each message from you has been a bit of sturdy ground for us to stand on, and we are so grateful for you. My connection to each of you, even those of you I don’t really know at all, makes my aloneness not so lonely.




23 Responses to “3-13 “No. You take care of YOU.””

  1. […] woke up the morning following my last post with a feeling of dread after yet another near-sleepless night trying to get my mom’s pain […]

  2. Fran Kirkpatrick Says:


    I loved the stories you told in your last post. My kids got a kick out of your mom making C’s in Social Dance and Bowling! I’m glad you have that week of sweet memories along with all your memories of your mom to take with you on your own life’s journey. Reading your most recent post today makes me so sad. I just lost my mom in December, and everything you have talked about feels so personal to me. It’s all still very familiar and raw. I think I’m doing okay until something like your post brings deep sadness and grief to the surface. I’m sharing this with you so you will know that I truly understand what you are going through, and I want you to take seriously the advice your mom, dad and sister have given you about taking care of yourself. You still have a long way to go and much will happen in the coming days and also after your mom goes to be with Jesus. Try to nap and eat what you can. You’ll need your strength in the days to come.

    What a beautiful dream Carolyn Dobbins shared in her post. I hope the imagine of your mom, “radiant – absolutely transformed,” brings you some comfort and emotional relief. I am praying for your whole family. Know that you all are deeply loved and cherished.

    God Bless-
    Fran K.

    • emilyltripp Says:

      From the moment she was diagnosed I have feared that whenever this time came, it would destroy me. And it is, in a way, but I also feel rebuilt. I’m feeling solid and contained. Sitting in this grief is good. I hope it never fully goes away, because the sharp ache of the pain from this is matched by my joy in who she is. I want what comes next, to figure it out with her and to be connected even more than we are now.

  3. RhodaPam Says:

    Oh, Emily. I am in awe how you are handling all of this. I have enjoyed watching you and your free spirit as you have grown into who you are at this moment. I am so very proud of you. I am so very thankful for you. Give your dad a hug for me. I love you all.

  4. Mark McFerran Says:

    Emily & the Cindy Tripp Tribe…
    Grateful for u inviting us all into your journey of walking your mom forward into her next season of life, eternal life. So honest…thx u & on behalf of the McFerrans, & know as we have been reading we have been praying & remembering the impact Cindy has had on our lives. May God continue to bring to mind all the great memories u have shared with your mom as u walk thru these difficult days. Mark, Melody, Taylor & Mikayla

  5. Beth Wood Says:

    Emily – we are so thankful to have the chance to get to know Cindy. She has welcomed us and loved us. We love her and each of you. We are praying for God’s presence, his peace and his comfort for Cindy and each of you.

    Darryl, Beth, Nicole and Taylor

    • emilyltripp Says:

      Beth, we are so thankful to get to know you–meeting your family with her for the first time was so special. I’m so glad for our connection to all of you.

  6. cmstanga Says:

    Praying for you Emily. I don’t know you, but I know your precious mom made my son’s 8th grade transition to BA and to a new town a lot easier and kinder than it might have been. And from one mother to another (you and her) my gratitude knows no bounds. She is one amazing lady!

  7. Joy Brandon Says:

    I second Susan’s reply 🙂 Indeed these are terrible precious days. I too pray for strength, endurance, and even rest. Taking your Mom’s advice to take care of YOU is as important as anything. Blessings and prayers to you all continually. Your Mom is a blessed woman to have such an attentive family loving her well in these days. God be with you all, Joy

  8. Rhoda Tripp Says:

    There are no words left in me, but thankfulness for the God that led your precious Mom to your Dad. I couldn’t have prayed for anyone better for my son. Y’all DO have the very best. I love all of you so much. You are so dear to me

    • emilyltripp Says:

      We love you so much, Mamaw. Thank you so much for your sweet letter on her birthday–we laughed thinking about young Cynthia going head to head with Papaw. Miss you!

  9. Susan Shafer Says:

    Emily, as I have mentioned to you before, your journey with your mom in these last few weeks has closely paralleled mine twenty years ago with my mom, who was my very best friend. The moments you are experiencing now will be yours for a lifetime…precious priceless treasure. My prayer is for endurance and strength in these days while you give back to someone who gave you life and a lifetime of love. It is a wonderfully terrible privilege. I pray for peace as you witness this holy transition and help usher her into eternity. Such holy ground. I imagine you are weary and lonely because no one else has the same experience as yours. Grief is as personal and unique as the one you are losing. No one else can really get it. Ironically, the one who really gets you is the one you are losing. However, somehow in the midst of it, you really aren’t alone. She has equipped you all these years with everything you need for this moment. You are loved and held by her love and the One she so faithfully trusted in this journey. We love you and your family!

    • emilyltripp Says:

      You are so kind, and thank you for the book today. It was so good to see your face, and know that you are close by this week.

  10. Cindy Montgomery Says:

    Emily, your post here is, in a word, beautiful. Losing someone we love is so difficult, but losing someone who truly loves us is beyond the scope of grief we attempt to articulate. In the days and weeks ahead if you want to see your mom, just look in the mirror. You look just like her, and she is there in a face she loves, yours.

    • emilyltripp Says:

      I catch myself sometimes talking with my hands, or making a funny face, and I’m overwhelmed with how much I am like her. It makes me laugh.

  11. Tonya Alexander Says:

    Emily, you clearly have your mother’s gift with words. You also share her ability to show such grace and faith while walking through this difficult journey. Your incredible mom and your family remain in my prayers.

  12. Carolyn Dobbins Says:

    Emily, I write these words with tears.

    I dreamed about Cindy last night, and it is a dream I shall never forget. Don and I were sitting in church, and I felt very strongly that Cindy was there. I turned around and saw her sitting directly behind me. She was radiant–absolutely transformed. This was not the “old” Cindy but someone who took beauty to a new level. Her hair was short and very cute (something those of us who have been through chemo always notice). Her skin was sun-kissed.

    She was wearing a white top and beautiful skirt–a gorgeous outfit. We exchanged a few words, but I do not know a single thing that was said. I was too struck by her beauty and the beauty of the moment, both so magnificent I had to look away. I awoke trying hard to process it all, realizing it was only a dream.
    Yes, it was just a dream, but the words of Jesus keep resounding through my head: “I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies” John 11:25.

    I am grateful for the unforgettable picture of a very alive, transformed Cindy. With death swirling all around, I find such comfort in a loving reminder that the pain of this old world will be vanquished, for we have the assurance that the best is yet to be.

    Continuing to pray for peace and comfort for you and your family,

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