So my mother would have turned 86 today. She died on Christmas Eve, 2009, after lengthy illness and a growing dementia. The last time I saw her was on this date in 2008 when we gathered to celebrate her 80th birthday. It took her all day to remember my name.
I’ve written about my mother before. Our relationship could have been better. And that’s on me. She loved me. Ours was not a warm, sentimental relationship so much. Emerging from a painful divorce and serious physical ailments, she did the best she could. She raised us to be independent, to take care of ourselves, stand on our own two feet, and all the clichés that work along that line. And my two brothers and I seized that independence and ran with it into our own worlds and lives and didn’t make the kind of time for her she probably needed but would have never ever asked for. My younger brother and his wife did the best of taking care of her. We moved her into an assisted living place a few blocks from their home in Olathe, Kansas, about three years before she died. He took care of her bills and what not and was the son every mother wants and needs.
I dropped the ball there. My only real contribution, aside from some financial support, was to drive to Branson and take her out to lunch each year on her birthday. The conversation was pretty much the same every year—a little bit about the family, a little politics, a scattered memory or two, then kind of an awkward hug and I’d be on my way home. I didn’t even spend the night.
I regret all that now. I wish I had done better. I wish I had loved her better. She made some sacrifices for my brothers and me along the way, probably more than we know. And I don’t think I honored her as I should have across the years. I’ve asked the Lord to forgive me, and I know He has. I asked my mother to forgive me. Her response: “There’s nothing to forgive.” Yes, there was.
That’s why I’m so grateful for heaven. One of these days when it comes my time to join her there, the hug won’t be awkward, the conversation will be rich, and the love will be personal, deep, and everything it should have been and could have been on earth but just never was. Oh heaven—when all things are made new, including relationships with loved ones that never quite lived up to their potential on earth! Oh heaven—where the sadnesses of earth are swallowed up in the purest joy!
Until then, I think of her now and then and especially on her birthday. So, Happy Birthday, Mother. Thanks for understanding. And I’ll do better when I get up there with you.