My mom was a very private person. We had an understanding while she was alive: I was not to write about the family. Shortly before she died, I teased her. “After you’re gone, I’m going to write about the family. I might even write about you.” To my surprise, she shrugged her shoulders and said, “I won’t care. I’ll be dead.”
Well, since I received her blessing, I’m going to write about my mom and the fact that I always had a split perception of her. On the one hand, there were things I absolutely loved, adored, and even needed about her. She was hilariously witty, irresistibly feminine, gentle-natured, extremely generous, affectionate, fun loving, adventurous (we traveled together), beautiful (pictured in her 30s), and as loyal as the day is long. All of these things I loved and appreciated about mom. Aside from Jesus, there is no one else in life that has ever (or ever will be) there for me like my mom. For that reason, the world is a very empty place without her.
But now I ashamedly admit, there was another side of my feelings. I did not look up to her as a wise guide, which is something I desperately needed and longed for in my years as a young mom and wife. From all appearances, my mom was not passionate or deep in matters of faith. She was not the go-to person in matters of spiritual guidance, wisdom, or encouragement. At times, I resented her for this. I felt cheated. Isn’t this what a mother is supposed to be for her kids, I asked in my twenties.
In my thirties, still focused on these disappointments, God spoke into my life. In human reasoning, you think your mom is supposed to be here for you. But in My economy, things are often the opposite of what you think they should be. What if you are supposed to be here for her? What if your purpose in this family is to encourage and teach her? What if I put this spiritual depth in you so that you would help your mom find her way?
This initially revolutionized my perspective on my mom, but it was soon to be tested when cancer struck (pictured on our trip to Mayo Clinic in Sept. 08 for her last surgery). Now became mom’s time in life to start growing spiritually, but spiritual growth is never won easily. In the beginning, she expressed so much fear, emotional weakness, and complaining that it was hard to be patient with her. For the first two years (of six battling cancer), it seemed that she constantly focused on herself and her troubles. It bothered me that she did not turn more to God or trust Him more fully with her life. But really, how could she? She had no history with Him.
I know now, as I knew then, that I expected too much from her. It was not me going through the surgeries and the chemo treatments—I had no idea how badly she suffered. Admittedly, I probably would have complained even more. But I still selfishly tried to make it about me, hoping at last to find the hero in my mom who would offer me an example of living and dying with unwavering faith in God.
I remember feeling deep regret for not showing more sympathy and mercy in her moments of weakness. But I also had the awareness that no matter how much I was there for her physically, there was an ache only Jesus could touch, and a dark path only He could walk with her down on those lonely, sad, hopeless days. Though it was painful to watch her struggle with Him alone, that was exactly what she needed because she discovered joyfully that He was so faithful to her.
Just before mom died, God granted us both a blessing (pictured about a month before her death). He opened my eyes to the realization that her lack of spiritual depth was not a weakness in her—it was the way God made her. Her personality, gifts, and calling for this life were all different than mine, and it made her no less a woman of God. It was only my selfish expectations and pride that saw her as less than a great mentor just the way she was. But you know, He could have saved us all a lot of trouble had He shown this to me sooner (laugh with me, somebody). I went to her and confessed my shame and sorrow over the times I had made judgments about her. It was a beautiful time of healing between us, and she experienced the gift of my sincere approval and blessing over her as a mom.
It was only after my mom died that I looked back and saw something too beautiful for words. The last 6 months of her life, she transformed into that woman that I longed for all my life. She began reaching out to others more and focusing on herself less. She completely stopped complaining even though she deteriorated by the day. And she fearlessly surrendered herself to God’s sovereign will for her life in perfect peace.
Her death came so fast in the end, I hardly had time to notice these things until it was too late to fully appreciate the change in her. But I haven’t stopped noticing and marveling since. My mom has become one of my greatest teachers…my greatest example to follow in life. I can’t wait to see her again soon so I can tell her that she died my hero.