Hey mom, I love you. I just wanted you to know.
I know. We used those words often in the living years, didn’t we? You made it a point to say them, because you knew from all your years how their absence could shatter a soul.
So, just for good measure, I’ll write them again.
I love you. I just wanted you to know.
You’re being celebrated today in the way I get ready in the mornings, the quiet ritual of a hot shower, fluffy towels, and styling my hair only after I’ve applied my make-up. You’re being celebrated with coffee that must include cream and sugar. You’re being celebrated with not just any doughnut, but a cinnamon twist because a little cinnamon and sugar make bread perfect.
And today, you’re being celebrated with quiet, not-too-much-fuss-please activities because Mother’s Day is a bittersweet day that needs space to feel.
If you were here, I would spoil you with good comfort food and a bouquet, though you might be called upon to join me in the kitchen because you were queen of the best fried chicken and I am still wary of following in your footsteps. Now, you were never much for flowers, except for yellow roses and daisies. I remember how you thought they looked like sunshine. Maybe that’s why I love them so much now – not that they remind me of sunshine, but that they remind me of your smile when you saw them growing in a garden or standing pretty in a vase.
I’ve written before that I miss you, that I’ve learned to befriend the grief that still makes itself at home in my heart. That grief has taught me the beauty of heritage and the power of legacy. A friend shattered by the loss of her husband recently said she wondered how things could ever get better. I hope to find the right words to tell her that better is an inadequate word when the composition of the air around her has changed, now that grief has become part of her story. Bit by bit, she’ll learn to breathe again. You taught me that, you know. You showed me how to grieve a life lost before its first breath as you talked about the pain of choosing to place a first-born life in someone else’s arms for the tending. You helped me grieve the last chapters of both beautiful and painful stories. The composition of the air has changed so many times, mom. Grief doesn’t just find its way into our lives through sadness. No, sometimes it hides in small places of delight – an answered prayer, a new job, a fresh start. Every “yes” has within it a “no,” a “this road but not that one.” I’ve stopped praying that grief would depart a life, for it is a worthy companion once we stop raging against it. These days, I simply pray that grief might be gentle in its teaching.
If you were here, we’d talk about my vocation and your concern for my safety in other countries – and then we’d reminisce about the year I spent in Mexico, and how your fear became the catalyst for a life transformed by faith. I still have the bible you used in a desperate attempt to prove that a loving God wouldn’t take your daughter far away. Remember when we laughed at how your plan backfired, and you ended up falling in love with Him instead? You would smile and say your faith in Christ is strong, but your mother’s heart still worries, and you would much rather have my feet planted close. I would then share stories of the kids I’ve met and the God-crafted family and the women who have taught me so much about leading gracefully, and I would pray that the words might wrap warmth around you like a patchwork quilt on a chilly autumn day.
If you were here, I would take a thousand pictures of you playing with your great-grandkids. I close my eyes and I can see you dancing in the living room with Tyler the same way you danced with me when I was her age. Sawyer would sing, and you would of course join in because singing was always like breathing to you. Perhaps closing my eyes lets me see the reality of heaven and earth and the gossamer-thin veil that separates them. Perhaps that reality is why I still dream that you are here and awaken with the feeling that you are simply in the next room.
I love you. I just wanted you to know.
Of course, if you were here, we’d talk about your grandson and how quickly he’s grown, but how he’ll always be the little blonde-haired boy who loved visiting his Nana. There would be countless stories about his beautiful bride and their faithful marriage, and then there would come the moment when the ache of missing them would overwhelm the joy of the conversation. I’d share what he wrote for Mother’s Day – that I taught him every person has value and deserves to be loved – you would catch my tears, and you’d not offer one polite platitude or prescriptive prayer. You’d simply sit and understand.
I said those same words about you. The exact same thing. I love that. And I love you. I just wanted you to know.
And so, today, I am celebrating you in this life that you have given me, in the women I know who are kin because of the passion that sets their hearts ablaze and gets their feet to walking, in the moms in spirit and the moms of respite and the moms who long for the day they might bear the title with a new little life.
I can still hear you sing, “I love you, a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.” Then softly, you’d whisper, “Don’t you cry, mama’s standing by…”
You’re being celebrated today, in comfort food and living room dance parties and “not-too-much-fuss.” And love, mom. You’re being celebrated today with so much love. Brad is making sure of it, because he is celebrating you too.
I love you. And just I wanted you to know.
(Other writings to and about my mom, Wanda Sellers, 17 September 1937 to 15 March 2000).
What does celebration look like for you, friend? Who do you honor on Mother’s Day? Who has nurtured you and taught you the beautiful and difficult things about life? I’d love to know.
And I’d love to stay in touch. Subscribe to my website and I’ll send a #littlelovenote your way once a month, with a few updates and thoughts on what the Lord has been kind to reveal to this girl’s heart (things I usually don’t share anywhere else). Why? Because we’re in this together, and I am for you.