That’s how long mom suffered. She passed away on a pretty spring day in April.
“I can’t decide between Fall or Spring. I love them both.” Mom used to say.
“She’s gone.” Two tiny words with the power to cut my heart in half. The only ones I can make out through my sister’s sobs.
Paul and I drove in silence. I looked up at the clouds — wondering if she could see me.
Under a canopy of breathtaking blue sky and fluffy white clouds grief settled in.
Her Children Rise Up and Call Her Blessed
I’d never seen a church so packed. Christmas service paled in comparison. The fire department showed up to turn away folks trying to walk into a standing room only crowd.
When the four of mom’s kids stepped down from sharing our hearts, I knew the legacy I wanted to leave my own four.
“Her children rise up and call her blessed.” The pastor kindly smiled.
My mom wasn’t a dignitary, or a political figure, and she didn’t have lots of letters after her name.
She was a mom who loved well.
I pray I’m doing her proud here. I live in the shadow of her death -in a beautiful way. You see, I believe she will ask me one day, “What did you do with the life God gave you?”
I plan on having a lot to share.
I love you Mom. Thank you for teaching me, correcting me, encouraging me and loving me. My four are doing well. There’s been a few bumps and bruises along the way, but they’re strong and kind and funny like you. You never met Samuel, but he has your green eyes. Oh, and guess what? You have fourteen grandchildren now–you would’ve loved being their grandma.
And, Mom, Just in case God let’s you know the day I’m coming your way, would you mind making your pot roast…the one you made every year on my birthday?
A few years ago, while visiting back in California I got up the nerve to knock on the door of my childhood home. I experienced in living color Miranda Lambert’s song, ‘The House That Built Me’.
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I know they say, you can’t go home again. I just had come back one last time. Ma’am I know you don’t know me from Adam, but these handprints on the front steps are mine.
– The House that Built Me, Miranda Lambert
I turn off the engine and take a deep breath.
My legs move in slow motion and take me to the front door. A stranger to the people inside— not long ago, I could walk right in.
A middle-aged woman peeks around the door, “Yes?”
“Hi, um..this might sound strange, but I used to live here. I grew up in this home….”
Opening the door inches wider, she pokes her head out a bit farther and looks me up and down.
I hurry with words to gain her trust, before I lose my nerve. “This might sound crazy, but there used to be hand prints in the cement on the side of the house..and, well..I was hoping…”
She smiles and interrupts me. “They’re still there. I love looking at them.” She opens the door wide. “I’ve often wondered who they belong to.” She smiles.
The lump in my throat grows.
I smile back in relief. “I have my camera with me. I’d love to take a picture of them if that’s okay? I’m visiting from Tennessee—I live there now.”
“Absolutely. Please come in.” She unlocks the screen door and steps aside. “Please, look anywhere you’d like. I understand.”
She begins to show me around the house I could walk through with my eyes closed. Rooms remodeled look odd. I explain their purpose forty years ago. Stories begin spilling out–snippets of memories in a kaleidoscope of colors.
In minutes, I become her tour guide.“This was my bedroom. It used to be yellow. My sister and I had bunk beds. Mom decorated them with Holly Hobby bedspreads. This room right here is the one my sister and brother shared. Dad put on the family room addition but not before I learned to roller skate on the patio that used to be there. That fireplace right there is where we snapped prom pictures and where our family took photos on Christmas day. We got ready for dozens of high school dances and even a few weddings in this bathroom here.” I smile remembering teenage arguments over curling irons and stolen earrings and years later, the bustle of wedding mornings and so much laughter.
“I spent hours as a teenager, sitting on this kitchen counter, talking to Mom as she stirred homemade spaghetti sauce or gravy or her chicken soup.”
When we make our way into the backyard four hand prints are front and center, in better condition than I imagined. I pull out a photo of the owners of those tiny hands to show this kind stranger.
“Jennifer is an amazing hair stylist. Amy is an R.N. and working on her nurse practitioner license and George is an attorney. Mom would be so proud.” I smile.
Grown up with families of our own, each of us wrestle with the deep wound of missing mom and the home this kind stranger let me step into once more.
Making my way to the front door I stop to take it all in. There was still one thing.
My throat feels thick and my eyes fill, “You need to know something about this home.” I take a second to compose myself, but my voice cracks. “There was so much love here—so much love.”