Three years ago today, Mama left here for heaven. I wanted to do more to remember her than stand at her grave. I wanted to share her with you. And, on the selfish side, I wanted to write about her because that’s one way I can still honor her.
In a couple of days is my birthday. Sixty seems like a significant number. I like it though. Mostly. It comes with changes and a few surprises. My new limitations continue to catch me off guard. I’m not fond of them, but they are here to stay.
Before dementia stole her completely, we talked about me being this age. She knew she wouldn’t be here for this birthday even if she were still in her chair. It hurt knowing that, but she was determined to have this conversation.
She sat in her chair by the window looking the at baby pictures of me that she loved most.
I asked her, “Did you ever think your baby would one day be sixty?”
She smiled and looked at me. “Now and then I wondered what you’d be like when you got older.”
Older. Yikes. That word.
Hoping the shock of it didn’t show I asked, “What did you think?”
“I thought you’d be like your Grandma Joy.”
“Wow. I like that.”
She nodded and looked at more old photos.
“Was I a difficult child?”
“Sometimes, but not often.”
“What about when I was a teenager?”
“You were emotional, but after you accepted Jesus, you were spiritually grounded. That helped. You didn’t rebel, but you could stomp up the stairs to your room.” She paused to look out the window. “Mostly you were a good girl.”
“I was still selfish.”
“Yes, but we all are.”
We sat in the quiet as she turned more pages in her photo album. Then she pointed at another favorite. “I love this one of you and your dad.”
There was more turning of the plastic-covered pages.
“You were a beautiful graduate and bride.”
By now there were tears in her voice. Each page made the passing of our years so real.
For a while longer, we lingered over family pictures remembering the people we both loved, feelings, words, food, clothes, and cars.
Then she shut the book and patted it with her hand – three pats. Funny thing about that – it was always three. On my back when she hugged me or was encouraging me to get going on a project or to a place. And on my hand when she comforted me.
She had grown weary in our remembering, but I wanted to know one more thing. “What should I do as I grow older, Mama?”
“First you can get me a more coffee.”
That sentence represented so much change. It was my turn to serve her – she could no longer jump out of the chair and do that for us. As I carried her cup to her, she looked at me and said, “The years have gone so much faster than I expected them to.”
With her cup held in her now fragile hands she gave me the following advice:
- Trust God more. Always more.
- Tell everyone you know about Jesus. He is all that matters.
- You’re way too hard on yourself. Be kind to my daughter.
- Give yourself credit for all you’ve accomplished. I am so proud of you.
- Let your regrets go. God has forgiven you. Forgive yourself.
- When I am gone, honor your dad. He will need you even if he doesn’t want to admit it. Promise me you will. Promise God. (I did and I am.)
- Love your husband – no one loves you the way Jonathan does. Not even me.
- Love your dad, brother, and all the kids in your life more. No matter what. (I do.)
- Stay true to your friends. You are going to need them. (I do.)
- Only apologize if you did it – you’re not responsible for everything wrong in the world, Joy.
- Laugh a lot.
I used to get shushed a lot and reminded her, “But Mama, I laugh really loud.”
Her voice grew gently stern – “I said laugh a lot. Laugh like you. Be loud. Be joyful. Be you. Do it for me.”
Then she took a picture out of her book – she had two copies – her favorite one of her and me – and handed it to me. That is how much I have always loved you. And will still love you this much when I change and can’t tell you.” She pointed at her heart, “No matter what I say or do – the love will be there.”
And before I headed home to Jonathan I asked, “Mama, were you right – am I like Grandma Joy?”
She smiled, and her eyes twinkled. “You are like her, me, your Grandma Pater and Grandma Pearl. You are a beautiful mix of us.”
“Well, Mama doesn’t get much better than that.”
“I’m glad you think so.”
Mama was right – it seems like I went from here. . .
. . .to sixty in what seems like no time at all.
In a couple of days, it will be official: I will be suddenly sixty. And I will laugh. Out loud. For her. For me. I think it will feel really good – both the age and the laughter.
Until Next Time,