Yesterday, January 24th, was my mom’s birthday. “Was” in the sense that both the day, and she, have passed. Mom would have been 67 had Parkinson’s or some complication from it not finally relieved her of the suffering that marked the last several years of her life. In many ways, the Mom that I had known for my entire life had passed on long before the breathing tube was removed on October 29, 2011. I thank God that before He chose to call her home, I got to spend one more afternoon sitting talking with her by her bedside, and in that moment, she truly was Mom – lucid, upbeat, and as always, understanding. Rather than dwell on her downfall, though, I want to use this space to remember her for the remarkable woman she was.
Mom loved many things. She loved God first and foremost. When I was a teenager, she had gone back to school to get a Bachelor’s degree in religious studies, and she was working on a Masters degree until Parkinson’s made it too difficult for her to continue. She wanted to know God as deeply as she possibly could, learning Hebrew and Greek so she could read His Word in the original languages. She dedicated her only son to the Lord, she told me once. While she was carrying me she was so spooked by the movie Rosemary’s Baby that right then and there she dedicated unborn Rob to God and His service. I have no doubt that’s why God’s kept His hand on my life, even during all the various times I’ve strayed from His path. She also showed her love for God in her generosity to the church, sometimes, my dad later told me, even at the expense of monthly rent. She knew God would provide.
Mom loved animals, too. I never knew when I was ten how close to suicide she was after our Samoyed dog, Sam, died unexpectedly while we were away on a trip. Several sick kittens of stray cats found their way into our home over the years, with Mom doing the bulk of the work to nurture them to long, secure, healthy lives. The first cat, Goldie, was the friendliest cat I’ve ever met and will always have a special place in my heart. His shy little cousin, Patches, will always live in family lore as the cat that eluded my college buddy Andy in his never ending quest to touch her, just once. Occasionally her love for animals put her at odds with her rather lazy son. While living at home after college, someone had abandoned a white rabbit in our apartment complex. Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the idea, Mom insisted we take it in, scolding me along the way for not being more sensitive. Of course, I was the little boy who had once asked her why she was crying after she finished reading me The Velveteen Rabbit: after all, the boy got another bunny. (I get it now, Mom.)
Finally, most important to me, she loved her family. Things were rarely easy for Dad and her, but no matter what, they stuck together. She tried the best she could to keep me in step with other kids when it came to the petty, material things they had that I thought I was lacking, even taking a job to try and earn more money. Among other things, she taught me how to drive a stick shift car (I’m sure that was two years off of her life right there,) bought me a plane ticket home from Mexico when I told her how rough the train ride there had been, surprised me with toys, video games, clothes, and other little treats, just becuase, and most importantly, prayed for me every day. At the time that seemed like the least of what she did, but now I realize just how many times God kept me from serious trouble or harm thanks to her diligence.
So Happy Birthday Mom. I love you, and I miss you. As you party with Jesus in His Kingdom, enjoying your favorite chocolate cake with buttercream frosting, among the myriad of gifts that eternal life has to offer, I hope you find one more: the knowledge of how much your life here meant to your son.
I look forward to the day when we meet again and I can see that despite how amazing you were on Earth, that’s only a shadow of the soul you’ve become in Heaven.