The week your dad dies and all of her grown up kids come home feeling small, quivering like a clutch of ducklings caught in a flash storm, is the week you see what your mom is made of. You see her strength as her adult kids intermittently bury their heads in her neck leaving it soaking wet with the same salty river of tears that they let flood there when they newborn wailed, got lost in grocery stores, scraped their knees, wrote impossible English papers, and boarded planes for far away homes.

You remember seeing her words the day he died;

“He’s gone.”

And as you exhaled the last breath of before, and drew in that first heaving breath of what’s next, you knew and sensed her trust in the one who gives every breath. Your voice barely cracked;

“…Mom?”

And you heard her steady reassuring voice saying, “I’m ok. It’s ok.”

And it is. Even though it’s not.

The day your dad dies, you see her strength as she goes back alone and does the laundry. Washes dishes. Allows herself to grieve in her own way. By doing the needful things. By answering the phone as each kid calls. By telling her friends the saddest news of all and reading their words of comfort, sorrow, and hope. By saying to the Lord, “Okay… I know this part now. Show me what’s next.” You watch her begin to tackle the big new realities and responsibilities that she must take on. You watch her begin to adopt them and make them her own. You watch her and realize you might survive should you ever be called to walk a similar road. She gives you confidence just because she is willing to embrace the life she has been given and not give way to fear. You watch her allow her future to be redefined because she knows who wrote the book. You see one who does not shrink back and is overcome, but one who is more than a conqueror.

The week your dad dies you know your mom’s spirit when you hear her laugh through her tears. And you see her tears flow mostly when she holds your head in her arms. And when she teaches you how mothering is always changing and staying the same as she lets you sit on her bathroom floor and cry, staying up well past her bedtime just talking and listening to you talk about how much you will miss him even though he sometimes drove you crazy, what heaven will be like, how God is so good, how thankful you are for the childhood you had and for her. And whatever else.

The week your dad dies you know your mom’s character when you see the mix of children she has raised, how very different they are, and yet each one shaped and molded in part by who she is and how she has loved them. And that every one of them feels perfectly safe being a grown up broken-hearted kid in her arms.

The week your dad dies you find yourself being mothered in ways you never have before. And you only hope and pray that God will allow you to one day be even half so strong and lovely as she. And you rise up and call her blessed.

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