As the baby girl of four children I always had a special relationship with my mom. Long after my siblings had left for college, I would lay my head in her lap in the evenings and enjoy feeling her hands playing with my hair. She was my sense of security, my best example and my most ardent supporter. And then I lost her.
I was 23 when I gave the eulogy at my mother’s funeral, a little over a year after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I said that her biggest fear in life was a pair of empty hands, that she sought nothing more than to give of her time, her talents and herself to those she loved and those who needed love. I told the story of how I cried with her in the hospital when she received her diagnosis, only to watch her stand up, walk over to a young, pregnant woman across the room and comfort her in the face of losing her unborn baby. That is who she was and those are the things she did. I never had a reason to seek a better example of compassion and love. I assumed my mom was the best one out there.
The largest part of my mourning took place during my mom’s illness, before she passed away. I would mourn the little ways in which she was unable to be the mother I had always known: when she couldn’t make it to my college graduation or when I visited and she was unable to make my favorite meal for dinner. Those sound like petty things in the face of cancer (and they are), but they were the hallmarks of my childhood and the tangible fibers of the relationship we had shared. With each passing occasion lost in disappointment I felt myself become less tethered. I began to drift in a void of separation that felt painful and unfamiliar. I struggled deeply with what death meant and how in the world one could embrace it.
Looking back, as usual, I can easily pinpoint God’s mercy in my life during that period of deep loss. He had given me a new husband to walk through it with. I was the secretary at our church and was able to meet with a kind and humbly talented Biblical counselor who brought light to the many distorted views I had of who God was and who He could be in my life. God even blessed me with my first pregnancy, just two weeks after my mother’s funeral, that allowed me to spend that first year looking forward to ultrasounds and baby showers instead of marking each holiday with a sense of loss. In fact, each of my siblings welcomed a new baby in that same calendar year, rejoicing in the newness of life God offered so undeservedly to us all.
I have had two more children since then and have learned quite a bit about marriage and motherhood. People often ask me if I miss my mom now that I inhabit her former roles and I feel immensely blessed to be able to say the following: God has so fully turned my heart toward Him since losing my mom that I know I have all I need within His word and within His church body. I still have periods of longing for her, but I have confidence in my God’s desire to teach me to be a parent and a wife in more and better ways than my mom ever could have. I continue to be humbled by the faithfulness of God and the persistence with which He pursues me. I am thankful for the gift of motherhood, both in the presence of the memories I have of my mother and the memories I am blessed to create in the hearts of my children.
“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21