Eyes dancing blue, smile warm and bright
Heart always true, hugs always tight
Sweet memories stay, though you have gone
In my heart may your legacy live on.
I cried today. Mother’s Day is a hard day for me. It’s hard because I can’t be with my mom, or call her, or tell her how much I love her.
This is the 17th Mother’s Day since I lost my mom to cancer. So now half of my life I have been “celebrating” Mother’s Day as a motherless daughter. Every year, I struggle with the lingering loss and the disappointment that my mom is no longer a part of my life and will never be a part of my children’s lives. Sometimes, I worry I am forgetting my mom, and that, too, is painful.
This Mother’s Day, in memory of my mom, I thought I’d tell you a little of what I remember about her and how I’m dealing with being a motherless daughter.
Mama did all the things good mothers do. She kissed my skinned-up knees, sang sweet songs, and hugged me tight. She always knew just how I liked my sandwiches fixed and wrote little love notes on the napkins she slipped into my Holly Hobby lunchbox. She also had a big wide smile that went on for miles.
But sometimes Mama’s face transformed. Her jaw set back so that her beautiful, perfect white teeth formed a very unnatural underbite. Oh, that’s when I really knew I was in trouble. That was her “I-am-mad-and I’m-trying-to-regain-my-self-control” expression. Every good mom has a look like that, and every good kid who sees it knows she’d better duck and run!
Most of the time, though, Mama was cheerful and high spirited. The very outgoing life of the party. The glue that kept our family together. Mama’s eyes danced clear blue, and she told funny stories and jokes and laughed a lot. Mama’s laugh was so loud and contagious. Sometimes it embarassed me, but that rollicking laugh was unforgettable.
She’d never have said so, but Mama was an amazing seamstress. She made me so many beautiful dresses when I was a little girl. She even made the white prom dress I wore my junior year, and the only pattern she used was the picture I tore out of a teen magazine! Yep, she was that good.
Mama also was quite well-known in our small town as a financial whiz. She owned and managed a very successful tax consulting and bookkeeping business. As a little girl, I loved going to work at her office on summer days. I sat at her receptionist’s desk since the receptionist usually only worked full-time during tax season. I typed on the typewriter and played with the copy machine and the adding machine. I felt so grown up and important behind that desk. I felt just like Mama.
Of course, nobody could enter numbers on a ten-key adding machine faster than Mama. How I loved to watch her fingers fly across the keys and hear the machine hum and struggle as it raced to keep up. I watched in awe as the long, curly rolls of adding machine tape spilled over the edge of her desk and onto the floor. How could one person enter so many numbers in one day? When I got older, I helped Mama with some of the filing and bookkeeping work. Back then, I wanted to be an entrepreneur just like Mama.
When it wasn’t tax season, Mama could be quite a night owl. She’d curl up on the burnt orange sofa in the den and speed read through romance and mystery novels long after tucking me and my brother into bed. That’s also when she’d sneak some chocolate from the kitchen. You could say chocolate was her weakness, but I’d say it was also her strength. Mama baked — mostly from scratch — the best chocolate desserts I’ve ever eaten! Chocolate pies, chocolate cheesecake, chocolate cookies, chocolate cake, and brownies — just to name a few. Her baking motto: “If it isn’t chocolate, why bother?” Spending time in the kitchen with Mama is probably my favorite childhood memory. I always got to lick the beaters.
No doubt the best smell of home was something chocolate baking in Mama’s oven. And the best sound of home was Mama’s fingertips gliding along the piano keys. I loved to hear her play. One of my favorites that I always begged her to play was “Grandma’s Feather Bed” by John Denver. Another favorite was the “The Baby Elephant Walk” by Henry Mancini.
While her long, slender fingers were made to play piano, Mama did not have a green thumb. Even though she grew up on a farm, she claimed she had a “black thumb” and she kindly passed that along to me, too. But even with a black thumb, Mama managed to grow lots of tomatoes every summer, and her flowerbed usually overflowed with Impatiens. My favorite, though, was the a lilac bush, and the tulips that lined the big front porch. Outside my bedroom window was the crooked tree. It was so crooked, my brother and I could almost walk as we climbed up into it. Around the crooked tree is where Mama planted the iris bulbs she dug up from her grandma’s farm in western Oklahoma. Mama loved those irises. They were shades of purple and blue. Blue was her favorite color.
The spring before Mama died was especially stormy, even by Oklahoma standards. During one severe thunderstorm, lightning struck that crooked tree and destroyed it. Daddy hauled off the tree, and that left the irises looking lonely and awkward and misplaced.
After she died, I decided Mama was the crooked tree — a lovely but imperfect person that I had adored and had tried so hard to please. I was the irises left behind, wondering where the center of my life went, feeling lonely and insecure and out-of-place. A daughter without a mother.
But praise be to God! He uses loss. He uses affliction. He uses pain. I’m here to testify that God used Mama’s death. He used it to draw me into a deeper relationship with Jesus, the One perfect person worthy of centering my life around, worthy of my trying hard to please. In Him I find my security and my direction in life. To Him I belong.
“God sometimes washes His children’s eyes with tears so that they may read aright His providences and His commandments.” – unknown
Mama was so very precious to me, and I miss her in more ways that I can ever count up on an adding machine, much less blog about here. She is so much a part of who I am today. I thank God for the years that I had with her, and I thank Him for being so faithful in the many hard years since losing Mama. God truly has shown Himself as the Great Provider. He cares for me and loves me, even more than Mama did. And He knows me, even better than she did. He knit me together in her womb, and He numbered all our days — hers and mine — the days we’d have together and the days apart.
God also has given me two beautiful daughters, who constantly remind me of Mama in so many special little ways — including the dancing blue eyes and the contagious, rollicking laugh.
Thank You, God, for knowing just how to comfort us in our loss and give us peace beyond our understanding. Thanks for being the perfect center of our lives.
And thanks for blessing me with Mama.