Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Remembering Mom And Celebrating A Legacy

It's been exactly ten years since family and friends were called to say our final goodbyes to my mom as she fought tenaciously for ten months in a battle she finally lost to stage four breast cancer. As I think back to those last few days with her on this earth, there was so much of who she was becoming being manifest to each of us. She was looking forward into eternity and encouraging us with every step as her time in this world was drawing short. A few days after the announcement had come that she had a maximum of six months without treatment and a maximum of 18 months with treatment, she shared with one of her fellow church members during a time of church-wide prayer for their healing, "No matter what happens, we win!" Her attitude was infectiously positive even in the middle of trying circumstances. She always set her sights on what was possible and encouraged others to do the same in every aspect of life. She was the kind of person that people write songs about, and in fact, my best friend in the whole world, Willie, did just that.

My mom left this world at age 61 after 43 years of marriage, but I can't really bring myself to say that she died. As the philosopher Dallas Willard has said, "We are each unceasing spiritual beings with an eternal destiny in God's great universe." And as another philosopher and writer C.S. Lewis has said, "You have never met a mere mortal." When my mom left this world to be with Jesus, we mourned her departure, and celebrated the small part of her life we witnessed. And in those few years from then until now, I believe that each of us who knew her has tried to imitate her faith. You see, we can't live our lives in exactly the same way, but we can be imitators of the faith that we witness in those around us and those who have come before us. In some ways, that is one of the most beautiful gifts we can carry, and we can pass on to others who will walk this world long after we have breathed our last.

So much has happened in these last ten years. Her oldest grandchild graduated from a prestigious institution of higher learning, and her youngest grandchild only recently was born. My dad, my sister, my brother, and myself have each sought to deepen and enrich our own walks of faith, and live as a sign, a foretaste, and an instrument of God's Kingdom come, and His will being done on earth as it is in heaven--to the best of our ability.

There have been so many incredible experiences I've had over these last ten years that I wish I could share with my mom. I wish she would have been able to spend more time with Jamie, and celebrate with us on our wedding day. I wish she could have been able to meet Sylvia, and hold her and be one more experienced voice encouraging my wife as she entered into the joys and anxieties that are unique to motherhood. I wish I could have shared just a few of the photos, stories, and adventures I've been privileged to enjoy over these last ten years.

But its not just the stories from my life that I'd love to share. I wish she could see what a disciplined athlete my sister has become, and how her life has flourished over these last few years as she started running and winning trophies for her exploits on roads and trails. I wish she could have seen Dad heroically come back from a heart attack that would have killed most people. She would have loved to have seen the way he fought back and strengthened his heart, and how he gives so generously of himself to care for each of us kids and for so many others. And I wish she could see what a servant leader my brother has continued to be as well. She would have been so impressed with his recent 90 mile bike ride and the way he has led the carpool van for his work by waking up a little after 4AM every weekday for nearly 20 years to drive 8-10 coworkers over an hour to work.

Not that she wasn't proud of us before these last ten years, because she definitely was. She was a huge source of encouragement and inspiration for just about every person with whom she crossed paths. Moments of loss, as painful as they are, remind us to walk gently on this earth, and to love others deeply while we can. Seeing my mom in those last hours, unrelenting in her care for each of us as friends and family gathered in prayer, mourning and strange as it may seem, laugher, those images have become seared in my memory and in my own internal compass as I continue to seek to imitate her persevering and unshakeable tenacity and faith. Even until her last breath, she loved deeply, she ran her race strong, and she never wavered in her care for the rest of us.

If you knew my mom, you know what a special lady she was. And if you didn't, I hope you get the privilege of meeting her one day. Mom's have a special relationship with their children, and while each of us continues to live out our life with zeal and determination, I think each one of us kids (and Dad too), has those moments to this day, when all is quiet, and we have at the same time a deep sense of loss, and a deeper sense of appreciation for each moment we have.

May each of us walk gently on this earth, filled with compassion for others, and with a deep sense of awe for this beautiful place and the wonderful relationships with which the Creator of the universe has blessed each of us. And, may He give each of us space, as we need it, to grieve fully and fearlessly for those, like my mom, who have gone on to be with Jesus before us.