Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Birthday to Remember, But No Tears This Year

She would've been 80 years old today; my mother, the woman who gave birth to me, nurtured and molded me, and then died when I was fifteen years of age, and she, 38. She lives forever young in my mind.

Her eyes never aged to wear glasses and her hair, when she had it, had only a few gray streaks. It didn't glisten white like that of her beautiful sisters; though I can imagine what she would've looked like because of them. She was never mother-of-the-bride, and therefore, never held a grand baby. She never celebrated a silver wedding anniversary or felt the emptiness of her children leaving the nest.

But, her days were fulfilled as God planned them. Her life was complete in His eyes.

Memories are an interesting thing. They occupy a considerable part of the brain. They hold court in your mind anytime they see fit. Memories can be a source of joy, as well as pain, depending on your state of mind and life experiences.

Mom and me circa 1963
The memories I have of my mom have grayed with time. The same ones make their appearance as predictable as the changing of the seasons. Different stages of my life renew the fervor to retain the pictures in my mind, the voice, the body language, and unfortunately, the pain.

When I was a little girl in first grade, one of the most vivid memories I have was about a dress; and me not wanting to wear the dress. I left the house to walk a short distance to the bus stop. About half way down the street I stopped, eyes full of tears spilling down my cheeks, and turned to look back at my house. She was standing in the doorway. I can see her clearly in plaid bermuda shorts and matching blouse. I was close enough to hear her yell, "Cindy Jean, you get on down to the bus stop or I'm gonna spank you."

The rest of the story is a blur, but I don't remember a spanking so I must have obeyed. My dislike with some clothing was real or maybe it was a control issue. I was, and am, particular with the way clothes fit and feel. It can be a curse when looking for a specific item.

I've since learned I'm a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). Yes, for real. Much has been written on this kind of person and I qualify, without a doubt. It reaches into sounds, surroundings, and emotions, as well as physical. I don't think Mom cared much about my sensitivities that morning. I'm sure she didn't want me to miss the bus.

She had breast cancer so a lot of my memories involve hospitals and doctor offices, meds and recuperation. But in the midst of all she went through, I remember her smile and her belief that God was in control and she would be fine. I was naive and had no idea of the seriousness of her illness. I was five years old at the time of her diagnosis and they didn't give any details. All I knew was that we spent a lot of time in Charleston at the hospital, expecting her to come to the waiting room to see us.

Times were different in the late sixties and seventies. Facebook didn't exist so there was no sharing of her illness, no requests for prayer or support for family put out to 500 of my closest friends. Families were much more private and mine was almost to the point of a lock down. The only time I heard about it was on Wednesday night at church when her name was called aloud during prayer time.

She was brave and strong and it never occurred to me her days were finite. Her strength came from the God she loved. She put Him first in all she did.

Vacation in Washington D.C circa 1971
I never want to forget the sound of her voice, the laughter beyond the pain, or the way she loved her family. I want to remember her love of Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty, and the way she would sing along to all their albums. She knew Every. Single. Word. And because she listened so much, so did I, and still do. I visited Loretta's home place in Butcher Holler while on a mission trip in Kentucky, and cried all the way through.

At times, I'd like to forget the arguments we had, the struggle she faced every day to walk, the pain and sorrow in her eyes, and the sight of my dad after she died. But those memories tell the complete story of who she was. I don't ever want to forget the joy she brought to others, and the stability she gave to our home.

I spent many years of my life weighed down with unresolved grief. Children who suffered from the loss of a parent were often overlooked in that era. Hospice didn't exist and the needs of children were not met with intention as they are today. Almost on a daily basis a memory would interrupt my thoughts to remind me of all I'd lost. Other life experiences compounded my inability to grieve.

I'm thankful to share after forty years since her death, my demons have been laid to rest. My dreams are no longer the stage where she returned for a curtain call night after night. The tears upon hearing her name have dried to a trickle. For these things, I thank God. In His faithfulness, He brought me to a place of grief and acceptance. He held me closely as I relived the memories and put them in the proper place. Grieving allowed me permission to finally lay her to rest.

This year, I'll quietly celebrate her life, her influence and her legacy...through my memories.

If you've lost someone you love, keep your memories alive. Talk about your loss, share your stories, and don't forget to grieve. Don't waste precious time in the pit of loneliness and unresolved grief. Allow Jesus to mend your heart and restore your joy.

Jehovah Rapha, the Lord who Heals, promises to bring healing; even if it's forty years in the process.

Cindy


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