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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Let's Hide" by Minnesota Author Marly Cornell on the MEP Photo Blog | Maris Ehlers Photography

As Mother's Day approaches, I asked my friend and writer Sara Biren to write a post on her motherhood reflections. I hope you enjoyed her essay. Once I posted it, I realized that I have quite a few talented friends in my network who either write in some capacity professionally, have a unique perspective on motherhood or parenting, or... both.  I decided to see if any of them were interested in sharing their stories for the MEP Photo Blog, and I am delighted with their response.

Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks.  You'll be inspired, delighted, amused, and you just might shed a tear or two as well. If you have a story about motherhood you'd like to share, send us an email at:  There is still plenty of time to be included!  

Today's post is by Minnesota author Marly Cornell.  Marly wrote The Able Life of Cody Jane: Still Celebrating, the story of her daughter's remarkable life journey with spina bifida and Marly's role as her mother and caregiver.  

I met Marly a couple of months ago when she asked me to photograph her for new publicity materials.  I'll be sharing a post about our time together closer to the launch date of The Able Life of Cody Jane: Still Celebrating, which is May 1st.

Let's Hide
by Marly Cornell

Marly's Mom Elma
Mom believed it was important that little kids not come home to an empty house. She was there when I arrived home from school every day. Dinner wasn’t served until Dad came home from work around six o’clock. One evening he was a little later than usual, and my little brother and I were in the kitchen looking for a snack to tide us over.
When we heard Dad’s car pull in the driveway, Mom said, “Let’s hide.”

She directed us to huddle with her under the dining room table where we were out of sight behind the drape of a long tablecloth. We listened as Dad came in the door from the garage and hung up his coat and hat in the hall closet. Mom put her finger to her lips motioning us to be still and quiet. I held my hands over my mouth to keep any giggle or snort from escaping. We heard Dad’s slow footsteps as he walked through each room of the house. We heard doors open and shut. Finally he came into the dining room, lifted the tablecloth, leaned down, and smiled.

Mom was eighty-three when my father died. He had been treated for prostate cancer for a few years and had a couple of related surgeries. On a Friday in April, his doctor predicted (accurately) that Dad had about three weeks left. The cancer had spread to his bones and internal organs. Dad decided not to spend his last days in a hospital, and went home.

Dad's Favorite Picture of Mom

My brothers and I, all of whom lived in different states, made immediate plans to help Mom and Dad. We took turns spending several days at a stretch for as long as we each could. During the five days I spent with my father, he was in pain much of the time, and I rubbed his back until each dose of morphine took effect. Then we talked and laughed, and he instructed me about what to do with his things. He insisted that I take Mom in for a mammogram while I was there. With tears in his eyes he said he didn’t want Mom to ever go through what he was experiencing with cancer. When the hospice nurse came, Dad expressed his wishes. He wanted to be as pain-free as possible, but wanted no extraordinary measures taken to extend his life.

Mom did not accept this. She wanted Dad cured. As a person of faith, she was holding out for a miracle. Her face contorted in worry, she pleaded, “If only you would get up and take a walk. If only you would eat something!” She kept caring for Dad, massaging his feet, rubbing his back, and refusing to discuss his imminent departure. Her anxiety was palpable.

Mom and Dad
The day Dad died, Mom’s worried face was gone. Her mood was calm. She asked me to remove all of Dad’s personal items from the house as well as the two matching lounge chairs where she and Dad read and watched television together. She said they made her feel sad.
I made all the arrangements by phone for a simple funeral at my parents’ church. Despite the funeral director’s urging that we come in to see his display of caskets and other accessories, I explained what we wanted and remained firm. When he asked, “But how will I be paid?” I promised to give him a check after the service.

At my father’s funeral, when the pastor invited anyone to say a few words about my dad, I sat amazed as Mom rose and turned to address the church full of friends. She spoke about what a man of character and integrity my Dad was, and graciously thanked everyone for coming.

As people came forward to shake hands with our family, a man who arrived late walked through the crowd, looking from face to face.

“I bet that’s the funeral director coming for his fee,” I said.

Mom grinned and said, “Let’s hide.”

Mom and Marly

Elma in her 90s

Marly Cornell is a writer and artist living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her mother, Elma Fay, lived to be 100 years old and died gently without any illness, pain, or suffering.

The Able Life of Cody Jane: Still Celebrating was published with the support of the Spina Bifida Association. 

You can find Sara Biren's post on motherhood here

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