Today would have been my Mom's 63rd birthday. Some days I feel her absence more keenly than others. Today will be one of those days.
Nicholas Wolterstorff wrote in Lament For A Son (and I'm paraphrasing so that it fits my story):
"If she was worth loving, she is worth grieving over. Grief is existential testimony to the worth of the one loved. That worth abides. So I own my grief. I do not try to put it behind me, to get over it, to forget it. I do not try to dis-own it. If someone asks, 'Who are you, tell me about yourself,' I say - not immediately, but shortly - 'I am a son who lost his mother.' That loss determines my identity; not all of my identity, but much of it. It belongs within my story. I struggle indeed to go beyond merely owning my grief toward owning it redemptively."
These words resonate so strongly with me. Those who know me well assuredly know the story of my Mom's battle with and death from cancer. It is such a central part of my story. And, God has been working these past several years to redeem this greatest pain of my life by reconnecting me with a calling that I first felt many years ago. Thus, I believe I can say with the utmost confidence that had this painful chapter not been a part of my life experience I would not today be a pastor.
It is that last statement that has left me thinking of Mom recently, much more than I typically have over the past eight years. This year has included many milestones moments that she would have been present for, cheering me on. Mom would have been there for my seminary graduation. She would have been there for my licensing as a local pastor. And we would have posed for the obligatory photographs to mark the occasion.
Today, as I prepare to travel home to visit my sisters and my stepfather for a family vacation where we will likely pose for more photographs from which Mom will be missing, I am remembering Mom through some of my favorite photographs from days gone by.
Mom, John, my best friend Jim, and me tailgating before a Redskins game in Jacksonville.
One of my favorite pictures...Mom crying tears of happiness as she hugs Lenora after signing as a witness on our marriage certificate. I'm not sure I can fully understand what it meant to Mom that Lenora and I found each other but this picture is a start.
Mom and me at the wedding reception.
Mom, John, and Gabrielle. I'm sure Gabrielle won't find this picture all that flattering but the smile on Mom's face is priceless.
This is the last picture I have of me, Mom, Alicia, and Michelle together. Mom died a little more than a year after this picture was taken. Mom loved us as much as any mother can love her children and the most beautiful thing for me is how she always made us feel treasured.
I love you, Mom...and miss you so very much. Happy birthday.