I saw mom a week before her fall. We talked, played games, went out to dinner, and celebrated her birthday early.
And she loved me well.
My visit with her reminded me of good times from long ago when we would go on adventures to town, eat Whoppers, and have long chats about everything from God to how to make my hair blonder.
Sweet Memories of Love and Sacrifice
She was always up for fun and when I asked her to do a photo shoot at Valley View Mall, she didn’t hesitate to duck her head under the hood of some model car in the mall and act like she was fixing the engine while I snapped the photo. Our trips to town on Saturday often included a trip to visit Aunt Louellen and Grandma and then a stop by the grocery store where she would go in and do our week’s grocery shopping while I fell asleep in the car.
She was giving like that. When I needed a prom dress, she called around everywhere until she found one we could borrow. I still have no idea whose dress I wore, but mom found this beautiful yellow dress and saved the day. She cleaned houses so I could have braces. She sacrificed her time, money, and talents to make sure we could go on debate trips, camps, and to college. I received a letter, card, or note from her every day of my freshman year of college. And when I forgot to call on Sunday’s at 4, she cut me some slack and said she understood.
Mom – A True Warrior
And she always listened as I would talk through every detail of my day after school. We would go on long walks and talk and chat. On one walk, she pulled me aside and confessed she had nosed around in my journal. I acted upset, but the truth was I was glad she had. Because there are some things every teen girl needs to talk through with her mom. She took my hand, and we scurried off into the woods and sat and talked for a good long time.
My mom was a true warrior. She’s fought many personal battles throughout her life. She struggled with guilt and loss, mistakes and failures, and chronic pain and sickness. And through it all she held on to an unwavering faith in God. Her failures, pain, and loss slowed her at times, but none of those things ever fully separated her from the love of God.
During my last visit with mom, she reminded me to take my struggles to God and stop my fretting. I had shared some frustrations about someone, and she looked at me, gave me that knowing smile, and suggested I pray for him. She said we never know what all’s going on in a person’s life and to pray.
Five Things I Learned from MOM
My sweet mom let loose of the world on June 11, 2021 and exchanged her brokenness for the presence of God. And she left behind a thousand life lessons. I thought I would share five of them with you.
- The first thing is to Listen. Mom’s listening to me rattle on about my day taught me the value of simply being quiet and listening. But it’s not just being silent. It’s also stepping into the words and sharing the details. In those afternoon chats that started with the bus picking me up in the morning and ended with the dusty walk back up the driveway, I discovered how all the little details of life—the boring, exciting, good, and the bad make up our stories. And our stories are filled with our mistakes, victories, and everything in between.
- The second thing mom taught me was to Forgive. She had experienced hurt in her life and she carried with her the struggle of the hurt she had caused others. Through all of it, she found her way to the foot of the cross and to forgiveness—forgiveness of those who hurt her and forgiveness for her own heart. She found and accepted God’s forgiveness. And she clung to the hope that God makes us new, and in Him we are new creations.
- The next lesson I take with me from mom is to Play Hard. This comes from our last few games of Rummikub. Back in August when I visited mom, I brought my Rummikub game. We played a bunch, so for her birthday, I got her a Rummikub of her own. She was fierce and showed me no mercy. Sneaky, she would hold her tiles until just when I thought I had her, and then she would go out in a modest flurry of unapologetic tile thumping. She played to win. And when I said something about her competitive spirit, she just smiled and said, “Isn’t that the point? You’re supposed to try to win.” She took that verve and spirit beyond games and lived it out. She was tenacious—some might say stubborn. And she went all out with whatever she was doing. I hope I live my life all out—to run the race to win the prize.
- Another lesson I learned from my mom was that Life is Complicated. We can stand back and look at someone’s life choices and think we would have done differently or that they should have done differently, but it’s not always that simple. I know I’ve done that to mom, judging her at times and not believing the best, but I don’t think she ever behaved that way toward me. Even when she pointed out my poor fashion choices or my constant tardiness, I always knew she loved and accepted me. She was never one to wag her finger and judge. She lived out the complexities of life and rose to a place where she knew none of us are the sum of our mistakes. We’re more than that. Life is complicated, not always black and white, and that’s okay.
- And the last thing I leave you with is that sometimes LOVE LETS GO. During my last visit with mom, she talked about reaching out more and reconnecting, and I think if she took any sadness with her, it would be from not having reached out when she could and said I love you more. But I also think she purposely let opportunities go because she thought that would be best for the other person. On my last day with her, I know she wanted me to stay a little longer. She wanted me there, but she put on a brave face and told me to go. I had a writers conference to go to, and she didn’t want to keep me from it. She put her heart aside and put me first. She also did that for me when I went to college, forcing me out of the nest. And I think she did that in different ways through the years for others. Stepping aside and letting loose. I imagine she loved from a distance on so many occasions, staying back and letting us go, so we could soar.
Listen well, forgive more, play hard, judge less, and don’t hold on too tightly.
Now, it’s my turn to let her go, but I miss her. I want to know she’s okay, in heaven, feeling no pain and with long lost family. I can’t see across the chasm of death, though. If only we could see them smiling from the other side, it would be such a help. Instead, though, God calls us to look to Him—to fix our eyes on our creator. He is our hope. It’s His love that soothes the broken heart. He fills our every need. And I am forever grateful for the love He showed me in every minute I had with mom.