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Monk in the World Guest Post: Kathleen Deyer Buldoc

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Kathleen Deyer Buldoc’s reflection “Window of Hope.”

I soften my gaze as I stare out my study window, looking beyond what is to what was and what is yet to come.

My mother is dead, lost with hundreds of thousands of others to Covid19. She fought her way to the end, as stubborn in dying as she was in living. Dementia stole most of her memory, but it didn’t steal her will to live.

This window frames a garden. Beyond the garden is a gated fence, and beyond the gate, a meadow. Spring is working its magic today, the earth bursting with new life. Such a metaphor for the old aphorism, life goes on. It’s nearly five months now since Mom died. Thank God for hospice, who made sure we could sit vigil with her at the end.

I never dreamed that holding a hand could act as an intersection between heaven and earth; an attachment between two people standing at the portal, one hovering, not-quite-ready to cross over the threshold; the other firmly grounded on this side of the opening. Like the ghost pains from an amputated limb, I still see and feel Mom’s hand in mine; can still smell the Jergen’s Lotion I used to massage that hand during her last days.

My mother loved this window where I sit today. When I walked her through our new home ten years ago she looked out at the spring garden, lushly blooming with daffodils, lilacs, and a profusion of dame’s rocket. She turned to me, her face aglow, bouncing on the balls of her feet. This is it! This is yours! Yours, Kathy! All yours!

I thought she meant the house and garden, but I’ve come to believe she meant this room, this window, this view.

It’s taken me ten years to claim this room as my own. A room for writing and dreaming and praying. A room where I do the work of reflecting on who I am, on whose I am, on what the events of life might mean. For ten years we used it as a guest suite, part of our retreat center, Cloudland, where we welcome friends and strangers alike to spend time alone with God. This room seemed perfect, with its window view of the garden, its second window looking out over the fields. My room could wait, I thought. My room could wait.

Dementia was just beginning to work its insidious way through Mom’s brain as she stood at this window ten years ago. Today, looking back, I remember how I thought her words a little strange as she bounced up and down, clapping her hands. What does she mean, I wondered, it’s yours, Kathy, all yours?

Mom enjoyed working when she married my father in 1951. Her salary helped put him through college. But once I was born she did what the majority of women did in the 50’s. She became a full-time homemaker. I chose the same path when my first-born came along. My vocation as a writer came a few years later, and as a spiritual director, several years after that.

Sitting here today, looking out my study window, my attention is attracted to movement in a tree far off in the meadow. It’s a large woodpecker, pounding rhythmically at the walnut tree. What perseverance it needs to gather its food from such hard wood. The same perseverance we need as moms to find a place of our own when raising a family, especially those of us with children with disabilities or mental illness. Even later in life, when our children are gone, we can still find ourselves putting everyone else—even strangers—first, because that’s what we’ve been taught to do.

My mother never found that room of her own in her home, but she did find it in her garden, where she puttered endlessly after my father died at the tender age of 49. Mom was just 48. She often told me that planting seeds—cosmos, marigold, zinnia—gave her hope. I believe that’s what she saw for me as she danced in front of this window all those years ago. Hope. She caught a glimpse of the future me sitting here, watching the seasons come and go—spring, summer, autumn, winter—one following the other without fail. She glimpsed the hope of dancing daffodils in the spring, wildflowers setting the meadow aglow in the summer, brilliant leaves in autumn, and snow blanketing the fields in winter.

My mother knew I needed a place of my own, after 25 years of raising a son with autism. She knew I needed a window like this to act as a portal into the future as I stepped into the danger and mystery of who I might yet become.

I soften my gaze as I stare out my study window, looking beyond what is to what was and what is yet to come. I hear my mother’s voice clearly. This is it! This is yours, Kathy! All yours!

I never dreamed that the memory of holding my mother’s hand could act as an intersection between heaven and earth. All that exists between heaven and earth is here, in this room, in this present moment, framed by a window of hope.

Kathleen Deyer Bolduc is a spiritual director, author, and founder of Cloudland, a contemplative retreat center. Her books, including The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities, contain faith lessons learned parenting a son with autism, and finding healing and restoration through the spiritual disciplines.

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