I remember coming home that night, exhausted and hungry, my sister & I raided the fridge before heading to bed. I remember my mom meeting us in the kitchen, asking us how our night of babysitting went. I remember my mom saying her head hurt and that she was going back to bed. And I remember the sound of her body tumbling down the stairs. I remember my sister screaming and us racing down the stairs after my mom. I remember seeing her laying on the floor, a pool of blood by her head…
I folded the washcloth again and continued scrubbing the blood-stained carpet. I thought of my dad speeding to the hospital, ignoring every stop sign. I thought of my mom lying helpless on a gurney with tubes galore. I thought of planning a funeral, filling the church with yellow daisies. I thought of how upset my mom would be if the blood permanently stained the new carpet. I thought of having to call my other sisters and retell the story. I thought of the play I was supposed to see the next day, and how I’d probably have to miss it.
But then my sister interrupted my thoughts, “Knock it off, that’s not important right now.” She was right. What’s a little blood when you’re not sure your mom is going to survive? But at one in the morning that’s all my eleven year old self could think to do. Somebody had to clean the mess, so I took responsibility.
See, responsibility is this weighty feeling of obligation that has served and plagued me my entire life. Unable to name it until recently, I understand now why I’ve spent years scrubbing the stain in the carpet. I’ve felt responsible. Not responsible for the accident and injury, but responsible for cleaning up the mess.
And so for years now, I’ve tried to clean up the mess. I became a nurse to be equipped to take care of my parents, helping them to avoid the nursing home. I tried to clean up the mess. I changed careers and focused on real health, finding the cause and removing interference. I tried to clean up the mess. I’ve scrubbed and scrubbed and argued and cried and made suggestions and pleas.
The more I’ve wrung out the washcloth and continued scrubbing the blood-stained carpet, the more weary, jaded, and bitter I’ve become. I’ve clung so tightly to my responsibility to fix my mom’s health concerns, clean up the mess, and make it all better.
This weekend, I let my mind wander back to that dreaded night. I replayed each scene over and over, exactly as it occurred. But then, as I recalled scrubbing the carpet, Jesus appeared, though not like a ghost, but as if He’d always been in that room. It was here, in the midst of the memory, I heard the words, “Let Me clean up the mess.” And I handed Him the bloody washcloth.
I admitted I don’t have what it takes to clean the stain. I raised my white flag and said “I’m done.” I’m done exhausting myself. I’m done taking responsibility for something that’s not my responsibility. I’m done trying to be the hero, the redeemer of this story. I’m done.
And I’m beginning. I’m beginning to leave the washcloth out of my hands. I’m beginning to discern my true responsibility. I’m beginning to learn what it means to be a daughter. And I’m beginning to trust that God redeems stories and people. I’m just beginning…