A LIFE WELL LIVED:
MOTHER'S DAY REFLECTIONS ON PAULA SANDFORD
by Mark Sandford
They say that Alzheimer's makes unresolved issues flood out like a cresting river with no levee to keep it from drowning the ones you love. The formerly passive husband rages; the submissive church mouse complains incessantly. Not so for Mom. She had submitted her ways to Christ, alias Aslan the Lion whose words my Dad read to us at bedtime in The Chronicles of Narnia. The White Witch was threatening to kill young Edmund whose heart she had poisoned, but Aslan promised him a way out: “When a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead . . . death itself would start working backwards.”
When I was as little as Edmund, the witch's poison still clouded my mother's mind. But then she and my father, John Sandford, discovered the medicine of inner healing, and her life became a testament to its cure. There are those who can fake the Christian virtues, hiding their poisoned hearts from everyone—even from themselves. But if there had ever been any doubt, Alzheimer's proved that Mom was not one of them. Whenever Maureen and I visited her, memories of the angry mother of my distant childhood faded in the warm glow of gentle hugs and kisses and “I love you” and “I'm so proud of you.” We never detected a hint of anger toward us.
Mom's brain had Alzheimer's, but her spirit did not. Inner healing purifies the spirit, opens its cage, and bids it to fly free. And so it was with Mom. Our beautiful daughter, Michal, despaired that some of her dreams may not come true. Unaware of this, Mom admonished her, “Don't you give up!” Our son, Jasha, discovered a talent for song, and was soon belting out the national anthem at local basketball games. Unaware of this, Mom pressed her frail finger into his chest and assured him, “You can hit the high notes!” She became her most prophetic in those last days, expressing her gift through a simple, unaffected mind that could not help but reveal the purity of a life well lived.
In 2012 on Mother's Day, we all said goodbye to Mom at a service here in Post Falls, Idaho. On the bulletin we posted the following poem, which is also a prayer. Mom penned it at Christmas, 1949, at the tender age of seventeen. She was in her first semester at Drury College and had met my father only a few months earlier. Little did she know that one day she and Dad would live out this poem, teaching the world to pull up roots of bitterness that drink in death and to put down good roots, sucking up the love that makes us bloom and greens the world around us, drinking it in from the One who makes death work backwards. . . . I think God answered Mom's prayer.
A Poem About the Seasons
Paula Sandford, age 17, 1948