Monday is my mom’s birthday. It’s going to be a tough one. Another first without my dad. But true to who she is, my mom is facing this head on with a strength that comes from a place so deep within that it simply must come from the Lord.
On birthdays, we recognize the people we love and what makes them so special. There are lots of things that make my mom special. She’s a fantastic mother, always there with an encouraging word or big hug. She’s an awesome Nana. My kids think that she has hung the moon, and they are forever saying to me, “We can at Nana’s house…” But for as many ways that she is special to us, it is her strength which is rooted in her faith that has risen above all other qualities in the past three weeks.
On the night that my dad died, I met my mom up at the hospital to take her home. She stood in that tiny, terrible room where people sit when their loved ones have passed away and she wrapped her arms around me while we both cried, and then she pulled back and looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Don’t we serve a mighty God?”
In the first week that she was home by herself, she called me one night and announced, “Well, I drove the damn golf cart.” My dad died in a friend’s golf cart, and we were all dreading having to see his own golf cart again. I couldn’t imagine riding in one yet. It’s just so close to his death. But my mom said she had been so worried about it that she decided the only thing to do was just drive it. So, she did. She said she cried the whole time, but she did it. It was over with. And now she’s not afraid of the golf cart anymore.
My dad had recently bought this hot little Mercedes sports coupe with a convertible top. He loved that car. It was new and shiny and he loved driving it around. It was sitting in the garage, and my mom said it was so sad to see it all the time because it reminded her so much of him. So, one day last week she called me and happily announced, “I drove the Mercedes to work today!”
An old friend shared with me in the past few weeks that she used to think of strength as being rock solid. If you’re strong, then you’re like a rock. ”But the truth is,” she said, “I’m not like a rock. I get sad and frustrated and I make mistakes. I’m not a rock.” But she said that what she’s come to realize is that strength – real, get-through-the-day strength – is more like a buoy than a rock. A buoy sometimes gets tossed in waves and water crashes over it during storms, but when the winds and waves subside, that buoy always comes out floating upright. THAT is strength, she said.
That is the epitome my who my mom is. She is hurting and she is sad, but she is also laughing and finding joy in her family. She is seeking strength and feeling peace from her Lord. Not a day has passed since my dad has died that my mom hasn’t reminded me of how merciful God is, or how perfect His timing is, or how comforted she is in knowing that my dad is in Heaven. Now, that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t cry, or that every little thing in her life hasn’t been turned upside down. That rain is still pouring, but my mom is buoyant. With each wave, she pulls herself upright again, always proclaiming what a mighty God we serve.
I am in awe of my mom. Any ounce of strength or grace I have shown in the past three weeks I have gotten directly from her. She is determined to move forward, and she is carrying my sister, myself, and my dad’s spirit with her.
Mom didn’t want to celebrate her birthday this year, but after the past three weeks, how could we not celebrate her? How could we not take this opportunity to tell her how important she is to our family? How could we pass on the chance to tell her that when she is around, things feel normal and whole again? How could we miss the day that celebrates what an incredible person she is? We couldn’t. So we didn’t.
Happy birthday, Mom. You give me the strength to move forward. I’m so proud of you, but more than proud, I’m so grateful for you.