It would only seem fitting, in a book about my “kids” to include a chapter about my Mother. And today as I thought about her on what would have been her 91st birthday, I felt a wave of inspiration, as I combed my hair and wept over her memory.
In order to convey my emotions, and why I’m feeling this way, let me set the atmosphere: I’m all alone in a house that once vibrated with the happy noise of eight children. One of my favorite memories of my children, now scattered all over Mexico, and the rest of the world, oddly enough include Daddy and Mother, and their annual visits every Christmas. Against the desires of my brothers, they preferred road trips to flying. They loved each other probably more in their final years of marriage than they did when they were newlyweds. Rarely did anything (outside the death of Daddy) separate them. So these road trips across México, literally from the northern part to the “uttermost” as I used to call the southern-most state of México, served as a get-away for the love birds, stopping at their leisure, and leaving usually before daylight.
But now I’m alone this morning with my thoughts and emotions and tears. They’re both in Heaven, but this being the celebration of Mother’s birthday, I’ll write about her.
I attribute my emotions this morning to my personality. If you know me now, what I’m about to say is going to surprise you: I was a little introvert when I was a child, and even as a teenager, I was shy and a bit insecure, probably because during the crucial years of my teens, until I was 16, I was a “preacher’s kid,” and the “normal” kids at school never let me forget that.
But my earliest memory of the manifestation of my tender emotions was the day Johnny (his real name, honest!) passed me a note. We were in second grade, and back in those days, you were 7 years old and just learning to read. (There were no kindergartens! Mommies stayed home with babies, instead of carting them off to daycare, or “professionals” who are paid to do what old fashioned, stay at home moms should have the joy of doing. Who cared that Susie was 5 and still couldn’t read. That’s what bedtime and Mommies were for.) So imagine my delight when I opened the sheet of paper, and read, “LOOK. Love, Johnny.” And drawn in the middle of the two “o’s” were two eyeballs. So I looked back at him, and he threw me a kiss.
Unfortunately, the teacher also looked up at that precise moment.
This story would be totally irrelevant, except for what happened next, and my response: She made us stay in during recess. My little tender heart was broken, and I began to weep. I had never, never been punished in the entire two years of my attending school, and had never even been called down because of bad conduct. I cried all the way through recess, and I’m sure my teacher thought twice before she punished another little girl.
But through my tears, and my broken heart, visions of Mother came to my mind…at home caring for my little brother, hanging out clothes, and I had broken her heart. I would be a shame and a disgrace to her, and a huge disappointment. I longed for her to be there with me, so I could feel her arms around me, and tell me everything was going to be all right. How dare that teacher hurt my mother like that! I almost hated Johnny for breaking her heart. Mean ole Johnny, mean ole teacher! I was ready to go home, and I wanted my Daddy to come for me.
That childish emotion is exactly the one I felt this morning when I was thanking the Lord for giving me a wonderful Mother…thoughts of how I had hurt her. “She’s in Heaven, and I can imagine her being so happy with Daddy and Jesus. Does she know what’s going on down here on earth? Do saints who have gone before us know of earthy things? And I wept and wept. When she was here, her children were her joy and her delight. We’re what made her get up every morning after Daddy went to Heaven. Our visits were the highlight of her year, and would it break her heart to know the times I’ve done things that would have broken her heart, were she here?
“Dear God! Are my children going to do things after I’ve gone that would break my heart if I were here? What can I do now to make sure that what they do isn’t just to make me happy, and once I’m gone they’ll change?”
Am I living in a gilded cage, thinking that they love each other? That they love me? That they love the Lord?
What could I have done differently when they were little to avoid the conflicts between adult children?
I don’t know.
Raising children, good children, is a lot like Salvation: it’s all by grace, not of works lest any Mom should boast.
So I sit here this morning, remembering Mother, and the godly heritage she left my brothers and me, and our children, and our grandchildren, loving and serving the Lord, and I think, “She must have done something right.”