• Happy Birthday Mama!

    Date: 2014.01.11 | Category: Faith, Family Life | Tags:

    We said goodbye and celebrated my mom’s birthday on January 5th, 2014.  She would have been 68 years old.  We met at the church early to make her a wreath.  My sister-in-law, Gayle, brought artificial flowers and the styrofoam so the grandkids could make my mom a forever wreath.  My mom always made wreaths for friends and family and sometimes people she barely knew after they had died.  She made these wreaths with a marker for their name.  She always said she hated that it took forever for headstones to be carved and there was no indication of who was recently buried.  So she made forever wreaths that could be placed at the gravesite.  It was fitting that the grandkids made the final one for her.

    We had champagne cake to celebrate her birthday because that is what she always brought to the kids for their birthdays.  It was their favorite.  We decorated the sanctuary with balloons and giant pinwheels (thank you Marcy).  We hung streamers and brightly colored balloons downstairs.  We had her meal catered by a Howard Ball (Feedshed Catering) who for years has smoked porkchops that mom has brought down to us.  Friends and family brought more bars and candy.   Grandma made her famous prune bars (delicious even though the name doesn’t sound like it).

    The church is very small.  One of those small community churches that are slowly fading away.  I was baptized in this church, confirmed, and married there.  I had my high school graduation and wedding reception there.  This church holds many good memories for me.  It was hard to go back after all these years to say goodbye to mom.  I’m not sure how many people the church normally holds, maybe 120 – 10 pews each side, 6 people to a pew).

    The basement hadn’t been used in years so friends of my mom, members of the church, cleaned and set it up for us.  They set up overflow seating in the addition, maybe another 100 seats.  All the seats were filled.  The family had gathered in the basement to pray before the service.  As we were waiting for it to start, members of the church kept coming down to get more chairs.  They just kept coming and coming.  It made me smile to think about my mom, who sincerely thought no one would show up at her service.  She didn’t want a funeral because she believed she really didn’t know that many people who would come.   There were people standing at the back of the church because there was no more room for chairs.  It did my heart good to see that.  On top of that, I heard from over 20 more people who couldn’t make it because of the weather.  Who knows what would have happened if that horrible polar vortex hadn’t hit.

    I don’t believe that my mom thought the Christ-filled life she lived really impacted people.  She went about her life without fame or fanfare.  Magazines and newspapers weren’t writing articles about the gifts of generosity and giving that she did.  No one was writing about wiped noses, or games attended to, no one wrote about sleepless nights, or hands held and all of that is okay because she wasn’t doing it for notoriety.  She simply cared about others.  She lived to make people smile.  One of her friends that served on the city council with her told me that ever since her mom passed away the year before, my mom would see her and give her a hug.  Mom always said, “Here’s a hug from your mom.”  She just cared when other people hurt.  She loved to give stuff away.  She loved to brighten your day.

    The most money my mom ever made per year was $24,000.  She was married but my stepfather didn’t make that much either.  She spent the past 10 years babysitting for her grandkids.  She certainly wasn’t going to get rich babysitting but she loved being with the kids.  If you were at the service, you could tell how much they loved her.  Her grandkids knew her.  Her grandkids knew how much she cared. Her grandkids knew, if it was possible, she would be their cheering them on.

    Mom wasn’t perfect by any means, but her heart was always in the right place.   Life hadn’t always been kind to her.  She had suffered with sarcoidosis since Cassie was born.  She often felt ill.  Perfumes would make it difficult to breathe.  Yet, she would attend every recital, game and church event that she could.  She would have to hide in a back corner sometimes if the scents were too much, but she was there.

    Mom proved over and over again that you don’t have to be rich to be generous.  She believed it wasn’t how much you had but what you did with what you had.  She gave of her time, her heart, and her money.  She would honestly give you her last dollar rather than keep it for herself.  Every year when we had our craft sale, I would give her the lecture on raising her prices.  I would say, “It’s okay to make a profit.” and she would just laugh at me.  She would say, “I am making a profit.  Plus, I get to make people happy.”  How do you argue with that?  She loved finding bargains and passing them on to her customers.   We were at the Iowa State Fairgrounds for the past 10 years.  Every year people would show up and say they headed to our booth first.  It was always a wonderful weekend.  Mom would spend the weekend here at the house and camp out with the kids.

    I will miss the craft sale weekend and the Women of Faith weekend the most.  I always looked forward to them.  This year was the first one in over 11 years that I had to miss.   Mom went even though she had to spend her weekend in a wheelchair.  I was in the hospital with Evie and didn’t feel like I could leave.  We had said we would go to the one in Minneapolis in October but she never got well enough to go.

    Thank goodness I always took the time to talk to her and to visit her.  I can honestly say I regret not being there with her at Women of Faith this year, but it was impossible to do so.  Other than that I have very few regrets.  I talked with mom a couple of times a day.  She was one of my best friends.  She held my hand on the worst day of my life, when my little boy died.  She held me up.  She encouraged me.  She loved me.  She was a great mom and a true friend.

    She believed with her whole heart that she was going to a better place.  “Home” is what she called it.  She always said, “If God has a plan for me, I’ll still be here.  If not, I will be hugging my grandson until we meet again.”  She always had great faith.  She believed in God’s plan.  She trusted it no matter what.  She fought as hard as she could until her body could take no more.

    She lived a quiet life.  She made mistakes.  She believed in God with her whole heart.  She loved.  She gave.  She changed lives and had no clue that she was doing that.  She is a beautiful soul that lives on in all her children and grandchildren.  She leaves a wonderful legacy of caring and giving and she didn’t have a clue that she was doing it.   She just fully believed it was better to give than receive.

    I will miss her and if I didn’t have every hope in a future with her, I would be unable to face my day.  BUT I do have hope.   For it is by grace you have been saved through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift from God.  Ephesians 2:8  Thank God for His grace.  Thank goodness I can rely on His grace for an eternity to spend with her.

    Today brings me one day closer to seeing my mama again.  Today I may have moments of sadness but I will not be overcome.  I will hold firmly to the promises that He has made.  Promises to give me a future and a hope.  I hang on tight to that hope.

    Here are a few of the pictures from mom’s slideshow.

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    We played her slideshow with the song by Steven Curtis Chapman, See You In A Little While.  It was very fitting, especially the second line.

    See you in a little while Mom!  Give my little boy a hug for me until we are all together again.  LOVE YOU!!!!!