Christopher de Vinck taught English in New Jersey for many years and lives there now.

The following lovely piece appeared in The Dallas Morning News today:

Time ran out. My mother was ravished with arthritis, often tired, but always filled with optimism and joy.

She read The Guardian, The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times. She was an author of many books. (Her next collection of poems Journey to the Morning Light will be published by Paraclete Press in September.)

My mother continued to write every day. She had just finished reading Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, the extraordinary novel written by Jung Chang.

Time ran out. My mother was 99 years old and said one afternoon a few months ago “Always keep in mind the secret name of beauty.”

My mother remembered that a few hours before I was born she was baking a peach pie. She was my first teacher: introducing me to the color of the autumn leaves, and reading aloud Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit. We collected wild flowers together in the spring. In grade school my mother gave me Kenneth Grahame’s book The Wind in the Willows. In middle school my mother placed on my pillow Sterling North’s book, Rascal. In high school she introduced me to the books of Loren Eiseley and William Carlos Williams. When I met a girl, my mother gave me her engagement ring to pass along to my wife of 45 years.

My mother endured Nazi occupation in Belgium for four years, nearly died in Dunkirk bombing raids, raised six children here in American…including my brother Oliver who was born with no intellect, was blind, mute, unable to chew.

Time ran out.

“Day by day, we cross over into the future,” my mother wrote in a poem. My mother is buried beside my father in a small Benedictine cemetery in Weston, Vermont.

When I visited my mother at the house where I grew up we sometimes sat on the terrace just outside her bedroom. In spring the wisteria dripped those beautiful purple flowers. In the fall the green leaves protect us. Often a chipmunk joined us on the terrace as my mother and I reminisced about weddings, vacations and peach pie.

“This terrace is a fragment of paradise,” my mother said as the brave chipmunk scurried up beside her chair. As she leaned over, the chipmunk sat up and gently took the peanut from my mother’s hand. A blue jay swooped down from the pine tree and grabbed a peanut that my mother had tossed onto the terrace floor.

We laughed at the quick chipmunk. We talked about the sorrows in the news and about the deer she saw sleeping in the yard at the edge of the woods. We even spoke about God.

“Isn’t it lovely that we are here, at ease, loving the world?”

We are living in a world that is being ravished with war, fires, and hurricanes, political upheavals, hunger, violence that is loose upon the world. It has always been so. But these things are news because they are stains that attempt to mar the beauty of our souls my mother would say. Goodness isn’t news because it is so common.

On the terrace, as my mother fed her chipmunk, she looked up at me and said “You don’t think of it, Christopher, but far ahead yet closer than a heartbeat something immense, wild, holy grabs you and won’t let go.”

Yes, time ran out. My mother’s heart gave up in December. Flowers perish, trees shed their leaves, and fields shrivel into brown stalks and frozen earth.

As my mother and I slowly walked back into her bedroom, as we took our last steps off the terrace arm in arm she looked up and said, “We can always return to a life of simplicity and peace.”

My mother was 99 years old and time ran out. She saw my sadness and then with a sigh and smile as she struggled back onto her bedroom chair she whispered “Christopher, we do not die forever.”

Happy Mother’s Day.

Christopher de Vinck’s latest novels are “Ashes,” (HarperCollins) and “Mr. Nicholas” (Paraclete Press).