It’s Mother’s Day again, and the reality of your absence is magnified a hundred times over. I miss you so very much. For the past few weeks, I found myself slowing down every time I passed by the special stand in the store where all the beautiful Mother’s Day cards were displayed. For a moment, lost in a brief reverie, I’d reach out to pick up a card for you – a card that would tell you how very much I love you – just like I used to do every Mother’s Day for forty-five years, Mom. But then the magic moment would fade as if carried away on gossamer wings.
Swallowing the painful lump in my throat and blinking away the tear-soaked memory, I placed the card back on the stand. I thought about sending it to you anyway, addressed Heaven. But I didn’t. It was only paper and ink. You know you have my heart, Mom. You always will.
As I enter into the senior years of my life (yeah, Mom, can you believe it?), I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. Deep thinking. The kids are all grown up now, and the grandkids aren’t so little anymore. I wish they could have known you. You would have loved them, Mom. There’s so much I want to tell you – things I wish I’d told you while you were still here. But I guess it took a lifetime of experience raising my own family for me to fully realize your immeasurable love and sacrifice. With every year that’s passed since the first day I became a mother, my heart has grown larger than I ever knew it could. And as my heart grew, I began to understand more and more just how much you loved me.
You see, Mom, I’ve learned a lot since then, and on the lighter side, I know you must get a good laugh, as I do, when you hear your own words come out of my mouth! (And just so you know, Mom, I never really believed you when you said you had eyes in the back of your head. Hope that doesn’t disappoint you too much, haha.) And the truth is I’m also much more aware now of what went on in your world when you were young compared to the world when I was a girl. So I want to tell you how sorry I am about a few things:
1) For every time I complained about the food on my plate, I now know that you always served our family a balanced meal. In your world at that age, your parents struggled to afford any food they could to feed you and your brothers as the Great Depression held the nation in its grip.
2) For all the times I whined and pestered you relentlessly about shopping for clothes, I now realize that you sacrificed a great deal personally to allow me such luxuries. Something you used to say to me that I thought you were making up at the time but it really was true is that when you were little, you sometimes had to wear shoes with the sole held to the bottom by a string tied around it. Mom, I’m sorry – I had no right to complain.
3) For never fully grasping the impact that World War II had on your family’s life and what it was like to suffer loss. You were a teenager when you watched one of your brothers marry his fiancé only to leave shortly afterwards to serve his country overseas. Your family and his bride eagerly looked forward to seeing him again for the holidays. He never returned and was “buried at sea”.
4) For insisting I have things you couldn’t afford when you helped me plan my wedding. It was lovely, Mom. Thank you. I know you never had the big church wedding experience. You and Dad married in a military ceremony with a world at war all around you. Having just lost your brother and with no end to the war in sight, you didn’t know if there would be a tomorrow.
There’s so much more I could add to the list. You grew up with so little, Mom, yet you gave me so much. You were my best friend, and I don’t think I could have raised my children without your guidance and encouragement. I bet I never told you that. I hope you felt it in your heart.
The angels came to take you far too soon. During our last visit at your home in Florida, I should have sensed that it would be our last time together. You weren’t quite yourself. You didn’t talk much and kept to yourself most of the time. Remember when we sat in the back room, our chairs side by side, and we just stared out the window for a long time? Then when you did decide to talk, the subject was death. You held my hand as we talked about Heaven, Jesus and the Bible. And you told me that when your time came, you wanted to go peacefully in your sleep in your own bed. Wow. Heaven must have been listening because, less than a year later, that’s exactly how your spirit left this world.
When our visit was over, I remember you hugged me much longer than usual. Did you know it would be our last hug? I returned to Ohio, and as the months went by, we talked regularly on the phone. Some days you sounded happy, and some days you sounded sad. I remember our very last phone conversation. It was the day before you went to Heaven. You sounded upbeat. We had the best talk. And as we always did, we said “I love you” before we hung up – the last earthly words spoken between us until we are reunited in Heaven. I thank God for that timely gift.
Dad told me that your final day on this earth was wonderful. He said the two of you went to church that morning, and you smiled a lot – something that had not come easily for you for over a year. He said the preacher told you how radiant you looked, and you beamed! Dad said he took you to dinner later that Sunday, and you really enjoyed yourself. You wore the pretty necklace that he’d given you for your 53rd wedding anniversary – your last. Dad always looked back on that last Sunday with you as a special gift from God as well. You couldn’t have known when you went to sleep that night that you would wake up in Heaven.
I lost count of how many times I picked up the phone to call you, to ask your advice or share some exciting news, or simply to hear your voice. But then I remembered you were gone. And how many times did photos of you become swirly images through my teary eyes? Mom, you were beautiful, and so was your heart.
Mom, if you were here, I’d tell you how much I love you – forever and always.