My mom liked to write special quotes and verses down on note cards so she could keep God’s truth before her at all times. A few weeks after her tragic death, my dad and I walked into their apartment. It was plastered with her handwriting. I spent much of the day reverently peeling her psuedo-cursive loop-de-loops off of walls and cabinets; the bathroom mirror.
All those words are now kept safe in an album, along with the photos we used in the slide show.
Except for one:
But do not recall former events, nor consider longer the things of the past. Behold, I do a new thing – now it is springing forth, do you not recognize it? (Isaiah 43: 18,19)
I keep it on my refrigerator. The weakest part of me – my faith like a mustard seed – needs this verse. It is the hope that I cling to, because honestly, this grief stuff is getting old. I don’t know when I stopped mourning the loss of her each Mother’s Day, and just started mourning the fact that I have no one to bring flowers to. No one to mail a card to with my daughter’s scribbles all over it. No eyes to look into and honor. I’m so tired of hurting; of not having a hand to hold.
As Mother’s Day approaches – ten years without her – I am ready to enjoy the new things, for I now have a step-mother!
I’ll can’t aptly describe the hope that sprouted in my heart the day I met April. It grew into a roller coaster of joy (for all things new!) and sorrow (those former things really did pass away) the day she joined hands with my dad. It all became so tangibly REAL. Another lovely Jesus-filled woman really DID step in; redeeming roles that my mother’s absence had left empty. My dad has new strength. My husband has a mother-in-law for the first time. And my children are finally (Oh, thank You, Jesus!) experiencing the love of a doting maternal grandma; the only one they’ll ever know this side of heaven!
And I; Well, I am learning a lot.
Consistent with expectation and capitalized upon (unfairly) in fairy tales the world over, this new arrangement is sometimes awkward, sometimes scary. Like a square peg in a round hole. We are two grown women with completely separate histories, our lives now woven together by the commitment and passion of covenant marriage. There have been moments of disillusionment. I know I’ve stepped on her toes countless times, and I only know the half of it. April is padding the path with grace.
The other day, I saw a touching musical meme on Facebook with flowery, exaggerated words on about a mother’s love. In a moment of sentimentality, I clicked the share button.
And then I deleted it.
Because, well, I’m learning not to rub my mother in her face. I know that my emotions are valid. But April’s are too. Of course, she empathizes. She cares deeply about the past. My step mom also lost her mother, so we both know the complexity of grief and sorrow. But It’s rare for a step mom not to face feelings of comparison; especially when the other mom is way up in heaven.
I am a mom now, myself, so I understand the unwavering love of a child that would inspire one to share a meme like this on social media. It’s unusual for people not to place their beloved-departed on a pedestal. Don’t I do it, too? Of course. But I’m an adult, and I know my mother wasn’t perfect; even for me. Just the same, words about my mom randomly come to my lips that don’t need to be shared in present company, in that particular moment. So I wait. Catching my words and considering them before I speak just doesn’t come naturally. Or easily. But, I’m learning to be the gate keeper of my mouth because it helps me focus on what’s in front of me; on this new thing springing forth.
This Mother’s Day is my first official celebration with April. I’m so grateful that this year, I have her: a real live mom to hug and deliver a card to. April deserves nothing less than my respect and appreciation, because she said “yes” to much more than my dad when he proposed.
I am still blown away that the Lord saw fit to patch the void that tragic loss and heartbreak left wide open. I was beginning to think it would be something I’d just have to bear.
I’m not trying to butter April up, but I do hope these words will bless her. Because #1. She needs to know I’m not comparing. And #2. I am thankful for everything she said “yes” to. And more importantly, #3. From her view up in heaven, I know my mom is happy about this arrangement, too. From the very start, we all knew it wasn’t good for my dad to be alone, and that God was preparing just the right person for the second go-round. Now that April’s by his side, the love trickles down from there, and we will all benefit as it multiplies and grows.
On Mother’s Day, every mother deserves a tangible token of honor. Trouble is, we know when it comes from the heart. Or not. Finding a way to be simply thankful – not over the top, not under the bar – is a tricky dance for fathers and their children everywhere. My kids are at the age where they can make their own cards, pick their own flowers, say their own words. But they’ll need a guide (hint, hint, Hubby!). As for me, my guide will be my own father. I actually have two of those as well; one earthly, the other Heavenly. With them as guides, I have no doubts I’ll find the proper way to show my appreciation for the hard work April does to love me and my broken heart.
That meme was right, at least, on one point. No one can replace my mom. The role she played in my life – her love and guidance – is a solid part of my identity now. Just as a potter throws marred clay onto the wheel to be re-formed, she is part of what’s being made new.