It’s you I remember every time I see a floral-patterned or plaid jumper. It’s you I remember every time I watch a Roy Rogers movie or listen to him sing. It’s you I remember every time I make a cup of tea. It’s you I remember every time I see a squirrel or woodpecker. It’s you I see, you I feel, you I hear. Everywhere I go, everything I do, you’re always with me. Sometimes you make me laugh, sometimes you make me cry, always you make me miss you. This world is full of memories of you and the too-short time we shared.
I can’t believe it has been a whole year since you had to leave. And though you were gone far too soon, I was so incredibly blessed to have you in my life. There are no words to describe the wonderful gift you gave us all. The gift of your love. It has made me into the person I am today. I only hope I can prove myself worthy of your gift by passing it on to others. No matter how much time passes, you will forever be a shining example of womanhood. An example I can only aspire to emulate. I know I still disappoint you sometimes, but you know that I’m trying.
I know you are watching and I know you miss us as much as we miss you and I know that we will be together again. It’s tough, you know, waiting for that day. Sometimes I feel guilty for enjoying myself, sometimes I can’t truly have fun because thoughts of you are crowding the back of my mind. You cross my mind every time I do something you would scold me for like eating candy or getting angry. I think of you every time I do something that I know you would have enjoyed. Just know that I miss you and I love you and I’m trying to make you proud. I love you so much, Mama.
When the clock strikes midnight tonight, 2016 will be no more. A brand-spanking-new, fresh-out-of-the-box, as-yet-untouched 2017 will take its place. Goodness, how time flies. It’s amazing how much can change in a year. Some of it good, some of it bad, and some of it just ugly. This past year has been a year of great change for me. More so, I believe, than any other year I have known thus far. Aside from the heartbreak of losing my mother, there have been some dramatic changes in my life. Most of them for the better, I do believe.
For example, I overcame my lifelong fear of driving and got my very own driver’s license. I am quite proud of that accomplishment. I know that it doesn’t seem like a big deal to most, but for someone who didn’t think she would ever get her license, it is a major big deal. A few smaller but still significant firsts followed. Like my first rental car, my first time traveling alone, and even my first Greyhound trip. This past year I finally found my own personal sense of style, I found the confidence I’ve always lacked, and I even found my very first boyfriend. Well, not boyfriend exactly – I guess you could call him my friend who kisses me occasionally. In short, I think I’ve finally started to grow up. Wow. I guess this really has been a year of great change.
And next year holds the promise of even more change. Hopefully for the better. I have only just begun to find myself and the more I discover, the more I realize how much more there is to discover. Both about myself and about this crazy thing we call life. I have every intention of continuing to grow and learn and experience new things on this amazing journey. I hope that this year will hold many more wonderful firsts – both for myself and for you. To another year of great change!
So tomorrow is Christmas. Another year gone. Seems hard to believe. This year has had many “first without Mama” occasions but tomorrow is the biggest. I never had a Christmas morning without her before. Or a Christmas Eve. I’m not sure how I’ll handle it. Was it really only 12 months ago that I gave her the beautiful red coat she never wore? I still can’t look at it without a rush of emotion to blur my vision. Tomorrow I will unwrap presents “From Daddy” only and not from both. This is hard – too hard for me to handle on my own.
At the same time, there is a beauty to this holiday that I never saw before. If it weren’t for Christmas and the birth of a Saviour King, there would be no hope of heaven and no promise of seeing my mother again. Some may argue the validity of December 25th as the birthday of our King, but it makes no difference to me. The actual date is not the point. The point is the promise of salvation that Jesus brought to that stable so many years ago. This is the hope I cling to when the pain is more than I can bear. This is the hope of Christmas Eve.
And the memories of many beautiful Christmases and Christmas Eves spent with my mother make this holiday and season so incredibly special. Memories of stockings hung on the mantel. Of presents so beautifully wrapped and tied with ribbons. Of Christmas Eve hot chocolate and cookies. Of shaking the various packages and trying to guess their contents. Of tumbling out of bed at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning. Of having “snowball” fights with crumpled-up wrapping paper. Of retiring to a quiet corner with one of my new books and my box of animal crackers to while away the afternoon.
So let the theologians wrangle over the petty details of Christmas. I will continue to hold onto the hope of Christmas Eve and the beauty of Christmas Day, keeping both my mother and my Saviour alive in my heart.
My second-to-last act of love for my incomparable Mama was to prepare the music for her funeral service and visiting hours. With input from the rest of the family of course (Daddy in particular), I put together a CD to play in the background during viewing hours. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but also one of the most beautiful. And although it is difficult even to write this, I do so with the hope that these songs may bring comfort to another who may be in a time of grief and loss.
10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) – Matt Redman – Opening the playlist on a positive note, this song is about worshipping the Lord for his goodness. Even when our world may be crumbling.
Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) – Chris Tomlin – Mama loved this version of the classic hymn. Incredibly beautiful, it both soothes and comforts.
Be Still – Kristene DiMarco – By one of Daddy’s favorite singers, this track reassures that “He who placed the sun, the moon, and stars is here with me.”
How You Live (Turn Up The Music) – Point of Grace – Advice on how to live a beautiful life or a tribute to one already lived, this song is perfect.
Better Than a Hallelujah – Amy Grant – The idea that God hears a melody in our tears and our brokenness is a great comfort. Like it gives our grief permission to express itself, knowing that we will be okay.
Blessings – Laura Storey – Even though we prayed for healing, we can still know that He loves us and sometimes His blessings come through raindrops.
In Better Hands – Natalie Grant – Although we miss her dreadfully, we can rejoice knowing that she is in better hands now. And it is “like the sun is shining when the rain is pouring down.”
In Christ Alone (Medley) – Phillips, Craig and Dean – A declaration of unshakeable faith, this song defines who my Mama was.
In Your Presence O God – Paul Wilbur – One of my earliest memories is of Daddy singing this as a solo in church. It is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard. His presence truly is a source of strength in times of grief and sorrow.
There Is Nothing Greater Than Grace – Point of Grace – “There is no valley, there is no darkness, there is no sorrow, greater than the grace of Jesus. There is no moment, there is no distance, there is no heartbreak He can’t take you through.”
Even If – Kutless – We almost included this one because of how perfect the lyrics are, but we ended up deciding against it because the musical style didn’t flow with the rest of our selections. I wish we could’ve used it, as this song puts to music everything my Daddy told us on the day Mama died.
Be Thou My Vision – 4him – The opening song for the actual service, this was Mama’s all-time favorite hymn. The last verse breaks my heart every time.
It Is Well (Radio Mix) – Bethel Music/Kristene DiMarco – The closing of the service. “Through it all, through it all, my eyes are on You. And through it all, through it all, it is well. Through it all, through it all, my eyes are on You. And it is well with me.”