I’ve always adored my mom. Adored everything about her. Her humor, her love, her affection, her wisdom, her faith, her eternal optimism and boundless gratitude.
She’s been completely homebound for at least the last three years. But there was never any mention of having cabin fever or bemoaning the fact she spent so much time alone. I can't conceive of her complaining about anything.
I did talk to her everyday and saw her most days. If I called and she didn’t answer, it would take all of about 15 minutes before I’d start panicking. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sent Bob or Loretta rushing over to check on her, only to find out she’d just had to use the bathroom.
She knew every boring little detail of my life. I’d tell her where I was flying and she’d remember every leg of my trip. I remember calling her once and her answering, “You’re on that long sit in Salt Lake aren’t you? If I were you, I’d tell Delta those long sits are totally unacceptable.”
“Yep, mom. I think that’s been passed along.”
But oh, how thankful I am for the job I love (long sits and all), because it has allowed me and the kids so much time with my family… regardless of where they lived.
The sad reality is some of my mom’s pain was my gain. A year or so after losing my dad, she came to live with me and got a job with United Airlines. She hated that job with a passion, but because she never complained about it, I never knew how much she hated it. And then 9/11 happened--and they let her go. When she came home, I said, “I’m sorry, mom. That’s awful.”
“Are you kidding me?” she answered, “if I knew how, I would have been jumping up and clicking my heels together all the way to the car.”
She moved back to Florida after losing that job. No doubt God’s hand was in it because Craig needed her. But when when God took Craig home in 2002, she came back to live with me again and Brett was born just four months later.
Those first few months of Brett’s life were awful but she was right there beside me…helping care for him, encouraging me, and never losing her sense of humor. Looking back there was seemingly so little to laugh about, but because my mom found so much humor in things, we’ve always laughed a lot, regardless of our circumstances.
She made her own fun. She always got a kick out of teasing the kids. After picking up Caitlin from school they’d stop by the house, because my germaphobic Caitlin wouldn’t suck her thumb until she’d washed her hands.
There were some wretched muskrats in the swampy area behind our house. Caitlin left the door open while she dashed in to wash her hands and when she came out, my mom, sounding as horrified as she could, said, “Oh honey! You left the door open and a muskrat ran into the house.” Caitlin let out a blood curdling scream and my mom would laugh about it to this very day.
She took on the job of driving Dane to school. Just like me, Dane isn't a morning person. Neither of us want to be talked to and we certainly don’t care to talk. Of course, knowing this made my mom talk to him incessantly. One morning she asked him what time school started. The clock in the car said 7:28. Dane answered 7:30. She stomped on the gas pedal, driving as fast as the car would go. When the clock flipped to 7:30, she let off the gas. “Shoot! You can’t say I didn’t try.”
Another time she was driving him she said, “I was thinking today we could shoot up to Michigan Ave, hop on 275 to M14, take M14 and then get off at Sheldon…what’d ya think?” Dane answered, “To go where?”
She lived in three of our houses. Always in the basement. Not a nice finished basement, mind you, but rather a dusty, spider filled, cement floored basement. My cousin Cass came to see us one day and when her little daughter Emma, who was only about four at the time, saw my mom’s bed downstairs she came up to me with her serious little face and asked, “Can’t Aunt Judy live in the nice part of the house?”
I answered that we tried to keep her down there as much as possible. (Okay, I might have gotten a little of my mom’s love for teasing).
I told Caitlin once I didn’t want to live without Gramma. She said it was one of the meanest things I’ve ever said. I tried to re-phrase it, “I’d prefer not to live on this earth without her. My hope is that Jesus will return and I won’t have to.”
How would I be able to bear not talking to her everyday, discussing every topic under the sun, laughing with her, getting her wise advice on everything? How could I bear not having someone who loved me unconditionally and consistently reminded me that this life is but a blip and how we’d only know in Heaven how much GOOD Brett’s life is bringing to this earth? She focused on the things she had to be grateful for more than anyone I knew, and encouraged me to do the same. I can’t tell you how many times she’d say, “you sure don’t have to look very far to see someone who has it worse than you.”
Just the other day she was saying how many years she prayed she’d live long enough to see Caitlin married to a man who adored her.
“And God answered my prayer,” she said.
“And now you’ll live to see her first baby, your first great grandbaby.” I told her.
“I don’t think so, honey.”
I never wanted her to talk like that, never wanted to believe her life would end before Jesus returned.
I know God planned the perfect timing of my grandbaby’s arrival. When we celebrated his impending birth last weekend, Dawn Baker said a sweet prayer, quoting Psalm 139.
When I got home, I picked up my Bible and turned to the psalm, it’s easy to find because I have Brett’s ultrasound picture tucked within it’s pages. Next to “I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” I wrote Brett's name. A few verses later are these words, “All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be. How precious are Your thoughts, O God! How vast the sum of them?” In the margin next to these verses, I’d written, “How often do I only yearn to hear Mom’s thoughts? Teach me God, how to hear Your thoughts.”
I’ll never stop longing to hear her affirming and encouraging words, or being able to relate funny stories to her. She always got such a kick out of my stories. I know the void she left will never be filled.
One of my biggest fears was her dying alone. Not only did she not die alone, but both of my siblings were in town and we were ALL there with her. It was truly a miracle. We couldn’t hope for anything more than for her to go painlessly and peacefully into the arms of her Savior and be reunited with my dad, my brother, her sister and brother, her parents and many others. I will choose to focus on God’s mercy and grace in letting her leave us just the way she’d always prayed she would.