She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. … Her children arise and call her blessed. Proverbs 31: 26, 28a
In recognition of my mother’s birthday, here is my tribute to her, taken from the eulogy I wrote in 2001.
As a little girl I loved doing things for my mother. Whether I gave her a drawing, a homemade gift, or a surprise breakfast, she would tell me I was so sweet and thoughtful and clever and artistic and creative and smart and wonderful in every way. And, being the trusting little child that I was, I believed it. (This was long before “self-esteem” was the buzz-word that it is today.)
Self-esteem was not so easy to come by in junior high school, where I dangled between coolness and dorkdom. I thought I’d found my ticket to permanent membership in the cool crowd, the day the coolest guy in eighth grade invited me to a concert the next night. I said I’d love to go; he said he’d call me. Being the trusting little eighth grader that I was, I believed it.
But the next day as the hours ticked by, I became more anxious, and my mother became angrier.
“Hasn’t that nasty little boy called you yet!?” (Hearing the coolest guy in eighth grade called a “nasty little boy” was an amazing thing!)
By 8:00 it was obvious that I’d been stood up. I shut myself in my room, wondering what in the world I would say to my friends after telling them all about the big date. (Talk about counting your chickens …)
My mother must have known what I was thinking. She came in and sat quietly on the bed for a few minutes. Finally, she said, “You can blame me if you want.”
“If you want, you can tell your friends I wouldn’t let you go.”
I wasn’t about to do that to my mother, but that night I think I realized my best friend was right there beside me. And with a friend like that, who needs to be cool?
My love life got better, of course. I remember Marty’s telling my parents with fear and trembling that we wanted to get married. As Dad ran for the champagne, Mom hugged Marty and said tearfully, “Welcome to the family!”
Fast forward to Mom looking through the glass at her first grandchild. I could tell the glass was really bothering her. She kept exclaiming impatiently, “I can’t wait to get my hands on her!” She couldn’t start loving that baby soon enough.
I remember the day I learned Mom was having some serious surgery. I hopped a plane and came to St. Louis, wondering if this was my last chance to see my mother.
I was allowed to stay in her hospital room the night before. – We were “roomies!” We watched a corny Tom Cruise movie together and talked and giggled late into the night.
At 5:30 Mom was wheeled away for her surgery, and I lay awake, asking God to please take care of my mom.
Mom’s heart stopping during the surgery; she told me about it later:
The monitor was beeping, then it wasn’t. The room seemed to fill up with a fog, and voices seemed far away. The doctor yelled to her, someone pounded on her chest, and the monitor started beeping again. My prayer was answered, and Mom was given back to us for a little while.
A few years later Mom was diagnosed with cancer. She underwent radiation, again prayers went out, and again she was given back to us for a little while.
The following February Mom fell and hit her head. When I got to the hospital, the doctor took me to her room. He shook Mom and called to her, but he couldn’t wake her up. It was terrible not to be able to tell her I loved her.
I had brought my guitar, and my sister her “lap harp.” We had heard or read that a person in a coma can still hear, so we sang to her, even in the ICU: “And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own … ” Then I saw it.
Mom’s lips were moving! She was singing along, and I wondered what kind of conversations she was having with Jesus. Again prayers went up and were answered; Mom woke up, and again she was given back to us for a little while. A few weeks later she left us.
But the most important memory I have of my mother is a conversation that impacted my life long before all this happened:
“Mommy, I know good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell, but how do you know you’re good enough?” (I was starting to have doubts about being wonderful in every way.)
Well. Mom wasted no time telling me there was bad news, and there was good news. The bad news: Nobody’s good enough, “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) and “The wages of sin is death, but [the good news!] the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:23) Mom told me I don’t get to heaven by being “good enough,” I get to heaven by believing Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment for my sins.
… kind of like her being willing to be the bad guy to help me save face with my friends.
He did this so that God could open His arms to me and say “Welcome to the family!”
He removed the barrier that separates me from my heavenly Father, Who can’t wait to get His hands on me – not to punish or manipulate me, but to love me.
Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. This is the greatest truth I have ever known, and I got it from my mother. My children got it from their mother. And because I believe it with all my heart, I know that I will see my mother again. And this time it won’t be for a little while, it’ll be forever.
(I miss you, Mom, but I’ll see you later.)
(Oh, and happy birthday.)