Frozen Words

Photo: Jeannean Ryman Used with permission.
Photo: Jeannean Ryman. Used with permission.

I knew you were no good.

Nearly two weeks later, the words still hang in the frigid air of the Chinese restaurant.  The cold gale is still blowing through that door held open by the helpful stranger.

And the words still hang there.  They are colder than the air blowing in from outside.

I knew you were no good.

It’s warmer there now, I know.  But my mind can’t move on.  She said the words to me.  To me.

Her baby.

They had warned me that angry words might come.  I was prepared to be kicked out of her house, along with the others.  I was even prepared for the conversational words she would speak which would have nothing to do with any conversation going on in the vicinity.  The disease from which she suffers has robbed her (and us) of the reality we have shared for all of my life.  I know that.

When she said the words to me, I didn’t react—in fact, didn’t think anything of it.  It wasn’t really her saying that to me; it was this different person who has no memory of the past left, speaking to a man she didn’t recognize.

I know that.


Back home now, lying in my bed at night, the words have echoed in my head.  My mother, who never in all of my life uttered a cruel word to me, told me to my face that I was no good.

The facts of her illness, I know—intellectually.  My problem is the event happened to me—personally.  My brain struggles to keep the two straight, failing miserably.

I’ll sort it out, eventually.

Still.  The words hang, frozen by the frigid wintry blast.  And, sitting here in my cozy corner, I shiver.

She doesn’t know me anymore.  She doesn’t recall she had any children, can’t remember who my father is.  Even though she can’t stand for him to be out of her sight, she couldn’t tell you who the man is.

I wonder what it would be like to be surrounded by strangers in your own home.  I even have this strange thought that starts to take root, asking: what if she no longer knows who God is?

Ah, but you see, now the worries and the what ifs, and the if onlys start to tumble one by one, when I reach that question.

The reality is that whether or not she knows Him anymore is not nearly as important as the answer that stands above every question in my long list.

He still knows her.

He still calls to her.

He still communicates with her.

Don’t believe me?

That very morning, in a little church fellowship hall, I sat beside her, a stranger sharing his hymnal with her.  She took hold of the edge of the book and tugged it over in front of her, soon commandeering well more than her share of the page.  And, without a thought in the world about who was listening, she sang.  As loudly as she could, she sang.

Me too.

Song after song, we shared that book—I, finding the right pages for her, and she, pulling more and more of the volume her way, until I held nearly none of it in my own hand.

That red-headed lady who raised me taught me to sing in church.

I spoke of it with that other red-headed person in my life, the Lovely Lady, just the other day.  I don’t know any other way to sing.

Why would you worry about who hears you?  You’re not singing for them!  All my life, growing up, I heard it and saw it modeled.

Sing it out!

My Mama and I sang for the One who still knows her.  And me.  A couple of ladies in the church mentioned my singing later.

I’m still not sorry I sang so loud.

You know, as I sit and write, I glance mentally over at those horrid words, frozen in time.  Funny thing.  They’re not frozen anymore.  They’re just mixed in with the rest of our conversation and communication from that day.

Come to think of it, they weren’t all that untrue.  That lady spent a lifetime understanding that none of us is born good, and she tried to do everything she could to help me past that.  She taught and sang, begged and demanded, all the while trying to help form and shape a man who would be good.

I’m not there yet.  But, I got some world class coaching along the way.

Oh, and an introduction to the One who will make me good.

I’ll keep moving.

And singing at the top of my lungs for Him.



…the sheep recognize His voice and come to Him.  He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out.
(John 10:3 ~ NLT)


My mama loves me, she loves me.
She gets down on her knees and hugs me.
She loves me like a rock
She rocks me like the Rock of Ages, and she loves me.
(from Loves Me Like a Rock ~ Paul Simon ~ American singer/songwriter)



© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015, 2017. All Rights Reserved.


Photo courtesy of Jeannean Ryman.  Used with permission.  Jeannean has many of her wonderful images available for sale and for use in projects.  Contact us if you’d like to communicate with her.

One thought on “Frozen Words

  1. Oh the emotions that come flooding my heart and mind as I read this…so many memories and yet like you said, frozen in time…words…spoken by someone who is no longer responsible for the words they speak…forgiveness there’s a word…a word I am so thankful for…and Love…what a word…all the hurt and all the pain melt away in the presence of shouting out that song of praise to HIM!!! Brother you have such a way with your writing…it touches and mends…wounds that seem to never heal…yet one word…written…with understanding soothes and makes everything all better…why? Because they come from a heart tenderized by the Love of God!! Thank you…

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