October 29 is my least favorite day of the year. Three years ago today my mother's earthly body did not wake up. I still get angry about that some times. Mostly this month, though, I just been a bit depressed. There have been days that I just go through the motions of my day, getting chores done and interacting with my kids, but not feeling much at all except the blues. I went to bed last night simply wishing I could wake up and have it be Tuesday already - I really don't like October 29.
I created these layouts about six months after she pasted away. This first one is the heart ache:
I will never forget that day - when I got the worst phone call I’ve ever received. It was early in the morning and I was upstairs doing some last minute homework for class that night. The fear and pain and confusion in my dad’s voice chilled me. He told me he couldn’t revive her and that the paramedics were there. I asked if they were taking her somewhere and he just couldn’t answer. I feared she was gone but he hadn’t said it straight out so I wanted to hold on to hope. I felt my way downstairs, shaking, calling for Tim. I had to contact my brothers and sister but didn’t know how I’d have the strength. Carefully I dialed each number and tried to sound hopeful but I had few specifics to give them.
After some moments of confusion I went to take a shower. My calm emergency adrenaline kicked in and I knew I needed to get ready for the day to start. In the shower I prayed so hard for God to save my mother. He told me she was fine - better than fine and my heart knew that she was safe in heaven with the Lord, but my brain fought back - NO! I want her here with us. Have them take her to the hospital and heal whatever is wrong. That’s when the phone rang again. It was my brother this time. He had made it home and confirmed that she had passed away. There was nothing the paramedics could do.
The drive to my dad’s house was horrible. I came into the house and gave him a hug and Tim went with me upstairs to see her body and to tell her I loved her so much. Then there were the details - the funeral, her outfit, the obituary in the paper. How are you supposed to do so many painful tasks at a time like this? I wanted so much to hear her footsteps behind me, to turn around and see her smile. She could always make everything ok.
Those days following were hard, but I'm so amazingly grateful for my family. We were all together and we made it through by sharing God's hope and God's strength with each other.
This next layout holds the text that my siblings and I wrote to read at her memorial service. This is the joy about my mom and the amazing woman she was:
My mother was comforting. [Nate]
In times of frustration and in need of strengthening my mom was always there. I would come home on weekends to ask questions about school work, but the conversation of education would consistently change to a conversation about my personal life. My mom was not the woman to ask about my personal life until I said something about it. We would be sitting in the dining room and working on a paper or a unit plan, and all of the sudden I would feel stressful and stop what I was doing to tell my mom something.
She would look at me with her concerned eyes, and I would break down into tears about how my life was not like the rest of my brothers and sisters. After I finished with what I had to say, my mom would give me a hug and sit with me in silence for just a moment. Then she would tell me that the life I led was what God wanted. And that God had plenty of special times left in my life for me to view.
And even though I felt lonely, she comforted me with her words. During my last breakdown, she told me that in times of need that I encountered away from home, I would feel better praying about it. So now I feel away from home, because she is not here to comfort me. I love you and hope to see you again, Mom.
My mother was devoted to the Lord. [Michele]
In a house with five children and a full-time job, every morning she would get up early while the rest of us were still in bed, sit on the couch with her Bible and spend time with God before starting her day. My whole life people have told me how exceptional my mother was. The reason she was so effective in everything she did was because she led a very purposeful life. She was focused on the Lord. She knew what it meant to let God lead her in every decision. When I didn’t know how to handle life’s struggles she taught me that God doesn’t expect us to control our circumstances; he only asks us to control our response. When I was struggling with my faith she taught me how to believe. She was the greatest example of a Godly woman I have ever known and the most influential person in my life. My greatest desire is to live my life the way she lived hers.
My mother was wise. [Andy]
I had the opportunity to see her wear many different hats in life: mom, wife, daughter, sister, principal, leader, friend. Despite this multitude of hats, God always enabled her to make wise decisions in each role. When I was in fifth grade, two of these hats collided: mom became principal. As principal, she saw everything I did. She had eyes everywhere. Which, on more than one occasion, landed me a visit to her office for disciplinary reasons. On those occasions, my mother was a principal. She was a stern and dedicated leader of the school, explaining to a student why punching a classmate is not an appropriate means of problem solving.
On the other hand, when the baritone player elbowed my French horn during band class, and my small metal mouthpiece slammed into braces, my mother put on the mom hat. She ran down the hall to get me and drove me straight to dentist, regardless of what her work schedule was.
No matter the situation, she always made the wise decision. I can only hope that God gives me wisdom like hers.
My mother was intentional. [Christy]
She understood that parenting five children didn’t mean treating us all the same. Instead, she knew who we each were individually and wanted the best from us and the best for us. One of the funniest memories I have of my mom was her taking me into her bedroom when I was in college to talk to me. I had done very little dating through high school and college and she sat me down on her bed and said, “Christy, I think I need to teach you to flirt better.”
Whether we talked about my life, my career, or my faith, I always left feeling uplifted and challenged to think about something just a little bit differently. Most importantly, though, I always felt loved – no matter what. Not once in my life did I ever doubt that she loved me. What an amazing gift she gave us.
My mother was embracing. [Brian]
It didn’t matter if you were relatives, friends, or friends of friends: if you came into her home, she surrounded you with love and gave you her full focus. You were the most important thing to her. You weren’t just welcomed; you were embraced. When my wife Emily switched from friend, to girlfriend, to THE girlfriend, Mom wholeheartedly embraced her as a daughter – no hesitation, no reservation, 100%.
Mom also embraced her grandchildren. When my son Cody was born, Mom barged into our house with a “Where’s my grandbaby?”, picked him up, and refused to share. Whenever we brought him over to her house, it was a brief hello for us but a swooping hug for him.
My mother embraced life like she did her family. We teased her about how she could never give less than everything to anything she did. There was no middle ground with her – she was in all the way, whether she was teaching, leading, educating, mothering, playing spider solitaire on her laptop, or playing tennis on the Wii video game system. She lived life All In: no hesitation, no reservation, 100%.
I love you so much Mom and my heart aches for the day when I can wrap my arms around in a great big hug again.