When I asked my mom what she wanted for her birthday last year, she thought for a minute, then said "More time."
I had a feeling it would be the last birthday we celebrated with her on earth; I think she knew it would be. And who knows... maybe she got her birthday wish. Maybe we were blessed with more time with her, and she with us, than was originally scheduled.
Even so, it doesn't feel like enough.
This morning, when I was wishing I could celebrate her birthday with her again, with Tom and the kids and my siblings and cousin Pat, it hit me that she now had more family gathered around to sing "Happy Birthday" to her in heaven than she does here on earth.
She has Daddy, her mom and dad, all of her siblings, all of her in-laws, most of her cousins, many of her best friends, nieces, and nephews, and my father-in-law. She also has my older brother, Buster, my sister-in-law Haila, and my ex-brother-in-law, Boyce, who just passed away a few weeks ago.
(Boyce always sent the best birthday cards, anyway - I'm saving all of them I come across. I bet he has her giggling today.)
It was a wonderful image in my mind, of all of them gathered around her, and despite the ache in my heart from missing her, I smiled.
After going through Mama and Daddy's things over the past few months, especially letters and cards from friends and family, I've learned something that goes beyond Lesson #84 ("Appreciate every second you're given, because life is beautiful.")
We need to take advantage of every chance to spend time with family and friends, and be sure they know they can count on us if they need us.
Because, like most of us, Mama was often irritated with one person or another. She could give Daddy the silent treatment for days if he stepped out of line... a talent I truly envy. I just can't stay mad long enough to get a point across.
Yet, you never had to doubt her devotion or love, and I really doubt if anyone except Daddy (or her children) ever knew she was irritated at them. If you needed anything, she was there in a heartbeat.
In fact, reading through all of the cards, flipping back through memories, you could say she was the heartbeat of the family. Everyone depended on her, and she was always there for them.
It's a lesson that she's been teaching me my entire lifetime, but it has truly been driven home for me in the last four years, after losing so many people who are precious to me in such a short time... my father-in-law, my dad, my mom, a childhood friend, and my ex-brother-in-law (who was essentially another brother.)
Life is just too short, period. Spend time with your friends and family when you get the chance, even if you're tired and don't really feel like it. Give them a call and let them know you care. Let them know you're there if they need you.
That's really all we're here for, anyway.
"...and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: "Love your neighbor as yourself". No other commandment is greater than these. "
Mama, thank you for all the lessons you gave me, whether intentional or not. You taught more by example than words... just another clue to what a wise woman I was blessed to have as my mother.
On her 77th birthday, I listed the things she had taught me, and I've added to it every year. So without further ado, here's the list...
Things Mama has taught me...
- it's never too late to learn something new
- if you have a choice between laughter and tears, choose laughter.
- don't let anyone mess with your babies!
- only give advice when asked for it (I'm still working on that one)
- pray every day
- pray some more
- reading a good book might not solve your problems, but it's a nice escape from them
- bend but never break
- some people are just takers
- be nice whenever possible, but sometimes nice doesn't cut it
- take care of family
- we're all individuals - let your kids blossom into themselves, not "mini-me's"
- be there
- Johnny Weismuller is the best movie Tarzan
- don't be in a rush to be older than you are - you're only going to be this age once in your life
- if you like something, and you'll use it, and you can afford it, then buy it, or you'll regret it later
- quality over quantity
- never think "can't"
- people will stand in line for a dead skunk if it's free
- roll with the punches
- have fun
- laugh often
- believe in yourself
- don't let others change who you are
- be honest
- don't steal
- forgive yourself
- God loves me
- don't judge
- just do it!
- inside matters more than outside
- don't use God's name in vain
- you can learn anything if you put your mind to it
- you're never too old to dance
- it's okay to ask for help
- show appreciation and express gratitude
- use my manners
- consider the source
- an office or position of authority should be respected, but the individual in that position has to earn your respect
- sleep is good
- take advantage of opportunities
- keep your eyes open and your wits about you
- people aren't always nice
- things can't make you happy
- use your imagination
- just get started and the rest will be easy
- don't be intimidated by anyone - we're all the same, all human, we all have strengths and weaknesses
- you can love someone even if you don't like them
- forgive but don't forget
- learn from others' mistakes
- there are times for being patient, and time for putting your foot down
- speak up
- stand up for what you believe in
- admit your mistakes and expect others to do the same
- persistance pays off
- let your kids be kids
- love unconditionally
- take lots of pictures
- kids grow up fast
- your kids need a mother, not another friend
- pets are family
- help others
- a sense of humor is essential for sanity and survival
- if you look close enough, you can find something to love about everyone
- coffee is good anytime
- messes can be cleaned up
- prayer works
- God is strong all the time - let him carry you
- if you say you're going to do something, do it
- be nice to yourself in case no one else is
- you have to show respect to get respect
- girls are tough
- don't put up with temper tantrums - yours or someone else's
- listen to your body - doctors don't know everything
- don't say everything you're thinking
- asking questions is the best way to learn something
- your babies are always your babies (and their babies are your babies, too!)
- God is.
- Just listen.
- people are more important than things
- there is a time to help others, and a time to let others help you
- God has his reasons, and He will give you whatever strength you need for the road ahead...and never leave you to walk it alone.
- smile and show appreciation to those who are willing to help you - they may have it tougher than you in many ways
- Appreciate every second you're given, because life is beautiful.
- Treasure the people in your life; take advantage of every chance you have to be with them, or to help them, even on days you don't like them.
"At the end of the day, a loving family should find everything forgivable."
~Mark V. Olsen and Will Sheffer, Big Love, "Easter"
"All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother." ~Abraham Lincoln
Love you, Mama. Happy birthday, and God bless you!