It was 1990 and I was staying with my mother for the summer. I hadn't planned to come out to her until the end of the summer but, one night, that whole honesty thing got to me and I told her I was a lesbian. Let's just say that she did not take it well. The days passed and we barely spoke to each other, each of us biding our time until the summer would end and I would return to college. Then, one morning, she said, "I'm going to dig up the septic tank by hand. I thought you could help me." My first thought was that no one digs up their septic tank by hand and so I told her that she should have someone come do it with some appropriately large piece of machinery. She then explained to me why it had to be done by hand. I declined her invitation and she shrugged and went out to the yard. I watched her from the upstairs window as she sat on the ground with a small spade, digging at the earth. Mom had had a triple bypass the summer before and didn't have the same strength and couldn't wield a shovel as she had in the days of old. I watched her, stewing in my own anger and frustration. I couldn't believe that she seriously thought she could dig up the septic tank with a gardening tool. After a few minutes, I stormed outside and told her that she was being ridiculous. She said, "Well, it would go a bit faster if you would help me". Reluctantly, I went and got a shovel and began to dig. I complained for the first half hour and she said that any effort we made would put us closer to the final goal. We dug and we dug and a funny thing happened - we began to talk, tentatively at first and then more openly. There were no big revelations...just simple conversation and some laughs. We dug, took breaks, drank beer, dug some more, talked a little, then dug some more...and so on. When we finally stopped towards the end of the day, we opened up a couple of beers and sat on the patio. I looked at mom and she nodded her head towards the front yard. There was an enormous hole in the yard and I realized that we had, much to my surprise, dug up the entire septic tank by hand. We accomplished so much that day and the digging was the least of it. As I think about this story, I am struck by the basic truth that joy can eventually come from difficult times. I will hold onto that thought today as I make my way to Kansas City. My mother died yesterday morning. I know that she is now at peace...there are no more projects to be done. My peace may come more slowly...but I know that it will come.