It’s been almost five years since my mother died. She really left us years before, as Alzheimer’s robbed her of her mind. Sometimes her eyes would lock on you and you could almost feel the part of her brain that was clear of memory robbing plaque trying to communicate.
People ask me from time to time if people in heaven know what’s happening on earth. The honest answer is “I don’t know.” God didn’t make that clear. I do know when people die and go to heaven, they are not converted into angels. That’s folk theology that isn’t taught in the Bible. Sometimes I pray and ask God to tell my mother some things I wish she could see and hear.
I wish Mama could see her grandchildren now. They are all grown and very good looking (some too good looking for their own good). When Sarah and my niece Katie graduate next year, all of her grandchildren will have graduated from college. She would be thrilled. A college education to her represented a real achievement. She’d be even more amazed that three of the eleven have Master’s degrees.
I wish Mama could hear me say to her, “The older I get, the smarter I realize you were.” Like every adolescent in the world, I was convinced I knew more than her. Now I know she had a wisdom that let me try and fail; that spoke her mind when she thought I was making a mistake; and that supported me even when she wasn’t sure about the path I was taking. I also know that she must had many conversations with my step-father I never knew about, pleading my cause: “Lawrence, don’t make him go fishing again. That’s just not him.”
I wish Mama could hear me say, “I forgive you.” When I hear people talk about their perfect mothers, my skepticism kicks in. I don’t know any perfect mothers. My Mom had a wounded soul from a father who fell short and from losing a husband far too soon. She could lose her temper and be very judgmental. But in many ways, I think she did the best could. She was like the injured runner who persevered, and finished the race. As I’ve gotten older and faced my own shortcomings as a parent, I want to apologize for being so judgmental toward her and tell her “I forgive you because I know you were doing the best you could.”
I wish Mama could hear me say “Thank you.” I never said it enough. Maybe you don’t realize how much you have to be thankful for until your mother isn’t there. I want to thank her for reading stories to me, for pushing me to be all I could be, for taking me seriously when I said at four years old, “I want to be a preacher.” I want to thank her for her imperfect love, the best she could offer. I want to thank her for being courageous after my father died. I want to thank her for letting me go explore, which was really the beginning of my passion for next steps.
I wish I could give Mama a Mother’s day gift one more time – like the coffee mug I made for her in 3rd grade that looked like a piece of mud with a handle. She kept it all her life, ugly as it was, because I made it.
But for me, the window of time has closed. I can only pray that God lets my mother know these things – and lets her know I still miss her. I don’t know if God passes on messages, but I’d like to think he does.
And if God passes on messages, I hope he passes on one more. There’s one more message I’d like Mama to hear:
I love you. Happy Mother’s Day Mama.