Today is my mother’s 92nd birthday, the first one since her death four months ago.
Today I am acutely reminded of my loss. I will be glad to get through this day, to have checked off one more “first” without her.
I am filled with mixed emotions: happy she was born, glad for the life she lived, grateful to be her daughter; yet, this year, missing her laugh, missing buying her a card and baking her a cake, missing her.
She always chose Olive Garden for her birthday lunch. Eggplant parm, salad, breadsticks, and anything chocolate for dessert. I think I’ll go there next year.
Today I will visit, for the first time since her burial, the national cemetery where she rests with my father. It will be the first time I will see their joint marker, with the inscription, “It Is Well With My Soul” added to their dates and Daddy’s years of service.
I will go with my husbnd, one of her two “sons- in- love,” and my youngest daughter, her youngest granddaughter. The last time we were there, we watched the hearse leave with Mother’s light blue casket (the one she chose 30 years ago) from the committal shelter toward my father’s grave site. I hugged family and friends, picked up my purse and got settled in the family car with barely enough time to see my mother drop into the open grave.
Just like that, it was over.
The years of wandering in the wilderness of dementia…over. The eleven days of active dying, without a drop of water or morsel of food…over. The funeral preparations…over.
As much as we wanted her to be free of earthly limitations, we didn’t want to lose her. As much as we knew it was happening, we didn’t want it to be true. Yet it was.
And so we filled her final days and hours with as much love as possible.
“Jesus will carry you home on his strong shoulders,” we assured her.
We played her favorite hymns by day and held her hands throughout the night.
“You loved people with the love of Jesus,” we reminded her.
“Jesus loves you,” we repeated. “I love him,” she whispered in response, with some of her final words.
We re-committed her into the loving arms of Jesus, confident He will do exactly what He said He would do.
“And this is the will of Him who sent me; that I shall lose none of all that He has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:39)
Today I will stand at her grave and imagine that day.
Thank you, Jesus. I am grateful for what you will do for my mother, and for all who believe. I am grateful we will be together again. I am grateful that you love us, forgive us, free us of guilt and condemnation, declaring us righteous by faith in you. I am thankful for your comfort and peace. I am grateful for your grace.
And on this day, as every other January 3, I am grateful for my mother and will celebrate her life. Only this year it will be through tears. Happy birthday, Mother. I love you.