Today is the 18th anniversary of when my mom died. This past week I've been thinking about how even though she wasn't present for my adult life, her presence in my childhood has shaped every day of it.
We've spent this morning looking through photos and telling stories. I really want my husband and kids to know how special she was, and to know how much she would have loved being part of their life too.
I want the kids to know how important faith was to my mom. Knowing Jesus shaped my mom's life. From my earliest memories to my last moments with her, I can see her faith shaped her thoughts, words and actions.
She taught me that Jesus was a friend who would never leave me when we were both lonely after moving a world away from our friends and family.
She taught me to love people sacrificially as she asked me to take her shopping after one of her chemotherapy treatments. She had sat next a young woman in the clinic that day and insisted she needed to go buy soft hats for her so we could deliver them that afternoon. I know that she felt like going home to bed, but loving someone else was too important to her.
She taught me to pray, and to love God's story found in the Bible.
She taught me what joy looks like as she lived each day steeped in joy even if the circumstances were difficult.
She also showed me that life went quickly, should be lived adventurously and death isn't something to be feared. As she neared the end of her battle with cancer, my mom made sure that I knew she wanted my dad and I to keep enjoying life. She told me that she wanted him to get remarried because he would need someone to share his life with. It was because of this I was able to start praying for this woman he would share the second half of his life with, and be open to really love her. That relationship has been such a gift to me. I am so grateful that my mom didn't see it as competition so I didn't either.
She also told me that I wasn't allowed to be sad for too long. We both knew Jesus and so it was going to be a "see you later" instead of a "goodbye" when she died. I'm pretty sure she told me that if I was moping around for too long she would be so mad at me when I got to heaven.
She wasn't afraid to die, but she wanted me to know that she wished she could be there for all of my important moments. Through these conversations, she gave us permission, maybe even marching orders to keep living fully. Because of her example, I'm not afraid either.
I want my them to know that my Mom taught me how to love my husband well. Through out the years of their marriage, they were always faithful to one another. They showed me how to work through disagreements, how to laugh together, how to think of my husband more than I think of myself, and how my family would be much better if I invested in my marriage first.
My mom taught me to be a good friend. Wherever we lived, my mom found friends who became like family. She was great at creating a party, but she was even better at just being present and sharing her life with others. Through countless cups of tea and coffee, afternoons sitting at the playground, hours of phone calls, zany adventures, shared tears, and hysterical laughter she formed friendships that lasted across miles and even beyond her lifetime. I have been fortunate to inherit some of her friends who continue to invest in me because they loved my mom so much.
Through my mom I learned to treat everyone as important, because they were created in God's image. I'm not sure this was ever a spoken lesson, it was just how she lived. She was a great listener and was just as interested in getting to know our elderly neighbor as she was someone who was world famous. Because of this she won over even the grumpiest people, and learned amazing stories from the lives of the people she met. My mom could be found investing in my friends, inner-city schools, our neighbors, the military families on our base, our church community, and just about anyone she came in contact with. To her everyone deserved to be treated with dignity, and to be seen as important.
My mom was a great story-teller and taught me how to laugh hard and often. My mom loved to make people laugh, and she was always good for a story. She was able to see things that were embarrassing,disappointing, or even hurtful and find the humor in the situation. In stories like the costume party that she and my dad attended as nerds just after we moved in costumes that were so realistic that nobody talked to them all night, or the stories from her first years of marriage when all their clothes were accidentally shrunk in the laundry and they had to wear them anyway, she taught me not to take myself too seriously. There was no time to harbor ill will, or to be stuck in those disappointments. They were temporary and there was humor and joy to be found, even if it was just in poking fun at yourself. There were so many nights that I fell asleep listening to her telling stories to my dad or to other friends and to a chorus of laughing.
She taught me to love reading. My mom taught me to take a book with me wherever I went. As I help the kids carry their books in from the car, or pull books from under the stroller I can see that my kids have learned that too.
She taught me to create fun and adventures, and she said yes more than she said no. Each day held potential for memory making and adventure. I saw this through her example of letting me bake layer cakes after school, her hosting progressive dinners and costume parties, eating dinner with neighbors out in the driveway and letting us see what happens when you throw an egg off the deck my mom made everyday fun.
I can see now that she chose to make fun for me, even when it didn't seem like it would be fun for her. She ignored the threat of creating a mess, or making more work and said yes. Because she took the chance and said yes, we made memories and I think we both had fun.
I am so grateful for the 19 years that I got to spend with her, and because of her example want to use each of my days well. I've seen how they can have an impact that last way beyond the hours within that day.