Six years ago, we didn’t know if my mother would ever see another birthday. Mere days after we celebrated the day of her birth in 2011, she collapsed in our home. Her breath was barely detectable. Every few seconds, my younger sister and I would shake her. Rub her chest. Do whatever we could to cause her breathing to begin again; to jar her body to inhale the life giving air into her lungs.
We didn’t know that her brain was filling with blood. That the center of her brain was squished onto one side of her head; that her brain was causing her body to have trouble remembering involuntary actions — such as breathing.
I was fifteen. My younger sister was thirteen. We had six younger siblings that had no idea what was going on; six younger siblings trusting us to care for them and for our mother. As the EMT’s wheeled the stretcher out of our home, I had the fleeting thought, “Is that the last time I will see her on this earth?”
I wanted more. More time, more memories, more laughter, more forgiveness, more hugs, more conversations. I wanted more late night talks, more cooking together, more times of sharing lemonade or a cookie or a trip to the store.
I wanted less of so many things. Less of my stubborn will, less of talking back, less disregard of her advice. I wanted less times of conflict and more of peace.
I didn’t want it to end like this. There was so much more I wanted to do; so much more I wanted to say; so much more I wanted to hear.
And the Lord graciously and wonderfully gave our mother back to us.
And in the six intervening years, in all my human fickleness, I tend to forget all those thoughts. The thoughts of regret, the thoughts of what if I had done things differently.
I wish I could say that I have never spoken disrespectfully to the gift the Lord gave to us; but I have.
I wish I could say there has never been another conflict; but there has.
I wish I could say that I have treasured each precious moment of the time the Lord has given us to be with her; but I haven’t.
I wish I could say that my stubborn will was vanquished; but it isn’t.
And today we will celebrate my mothers birthday. We will celebrate in the most fitting fashion, since it is the Lord’s Day. We will celebrate it in worshiping our risen Saviour. In lifting our voices in song, in learning more of our Lord.
But, Mama, I want to take the time today to say all the things I wanted to back then, back before we were so busy surviving day-to-day, focused on getting you well, focused on getting my newest sister home from the hospital.
I want to say “Thank you” for all you do and continue to do. For all the times you stayed up late sewing for us, when you had far rather been in bed. For all the times you gave up what you wanted to do something with us children. For purposing to give us sweet memories of a happy childhood, memories of mother/daughter days at the store, complete with strollers and baby dolls. Memories of days at the park; memories of picnics, library days, and falling into bed hot and tired and sweaty and incredibly happy.
Thank you for every nightmare you saved us from. For being there for us when we were sick, or hurt, or needed to talk.
Thank you for all the times we can slip away and spend one-on-one time with you. Thank you for every late night talk, for every word of correction you utter even though it gets late and you could use the sleep.
Thank you for showing us a marriage full of love, full of flaws, and utterly dependent on God’s grace alone. Thank you to modeling to us girls, and everyone around you, the beauty of true womanhood. The priceless gift of femininity that God has given to each of us girls.
Thank you for every load of laundry you have washed. Thank you for being cheerful and encouraging us to be smile when the washing machine stops working and the laundry piles up around our ears. Thank you for coming up with creative ideas for getting around the house when termites have eaten holes in the floors and we don’t have a sink, and we don’t have counters or cabinets and we girls are all wondering what to do about it. Thank you for every thing you come up with to pass the many hours on the side of the road with a broken down vehicle. Thank you for never complaining about it, but making it fun and a time of wonderful memories that we can smile at now.
Thank you for every meal we have cooked together. For everything you have taught us to create in the kitchen, for every experiment you have allowed to dirty the counters. Thank you for the recipes you have handed down, for the stories that have come with them.
Thank you for teaching us at home, for making sure we gain knowledge. For making sure that first and foremost we learn of our Saviour and Lord, and our need for Him. Thank you for putting aside every thing that you wanted to accomplish to take on the task of raising us, to take on the task of schooling us, refusing to give us over to state’s system of education even though there are many times I am sure it would be easier.
Thank you for every decision you made that went against the cultural norm. For raising as you have. For instilling the values into us that we have, for sharing your convictions with us. Thank you for being peculiar to others so that your children could be raised as the Lord would have you to raise us, so He could teach us what He has through you.
Thank you for keeping us at home, for teaching us the value and incredible worth of stay-at-home motherhood. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to make mistakes now, to make messes and disasters now, and for helping us clean them up.
I don’t say it often enough, and I know that. I realized it six years ago, and I am remembering now. But, Mama, all of us children are thankful for every word of correction, for every one of “those days”, for every tear that falls during those days — even though at the time we may not seem as if we are.
Because we almost didn’t have them.
And we would miss them. Profoundly.
But mostly I am thankful for you allowing us to see Christ through an imperfect woman. To see someone who struggles, who fails, and who is honest about her shortcomings. To see someone who goes before God, laying her burdens down at His feet, and then stands and faces the world again. Thank you for not putting on a facade and a smile for the world while our family is struggling, for sharing prayer requests and asking for wisdom even though it shows that you may not have all the answers. Because it shows us the importance of being honest. Of being real. Of putting our entire hope and trust and faith in God, looking to Him for guidance and direction.
Thank you. For everything, thank you.