Happy Birthday, Mama Bear!
For the love, don't "live like you were dying." Live like you are living.
Live like "shlupping the kids around in a minivan - 'I feel like a chauffeur!'" is a joy. Because you have children who are alive, and you are alive to drive them, and you live in a place where there are paved roads. Like my mom does. Live impressed with beauty around you. Like my mom does. I've told this story before, but God let it stay in my head. I think about it almost everyday, and have for years: mom and I were grocery shopping -- not even, we were running into the Giant really quick to get a few ingredients for dinner. I was bagging onions, she was bagging tomatoes and then the eggplant caught her eye. She stopped and stared at it. I thought she was trying to decide whether we needed it for our meal or not.
"Just look at this color. Come here. Look at this. I don't even like the color purple, but isn't this so beautiful? Why did God decide to make all these red, orange and green vegetables and then pick one to be deep, navy purple? He's so creative."We left eggplant-less, but I always notice the particularly royal color of an eggplant. Live like your mom or best-friend is available to go grocery shopping with you. Live like you can call her up or send her a text whenever you want.
Live like your lungs can take deep breaths, and your legs can walk up and down stairs easily, and like your body can enjoy a hearty, tasty meal and that you can look forward to food. Live like beauty is all around you, and that who a person is is what makes them beautiful -- stop hating the wrinkles and soft patches and boniness and chubbiness and acne and bags under your eyes. Goodness, the most beautiful woman I've ever seen is bald (for the third time), barely ever wears make-up, is thinner and bonier than she should be, doesn't have toned muscles, has one arm swollen to twice the size of her other arm, wears glasses and crow's feet. God, she's beautiful. She has cancer in her liver, bones, lungs and brain and she absolutely loves to braid her youngest daughter's hair before bed. She never misses soccer games. Like. She can't come downstairs for dinner. And she does.not.miss.soccer.games. She does not shoo children out of her room or life because she's too busy. "Let the little children come to me, and do not hold them back."
And just so you know, she did these things before she was sick. She's the most "here" person I've ever known. During our last long drive from Oklahoma to Maryland I called mama. I missed her and wanted to talk. We talked for over 100 miles. She listened a lot, because I blabber a lot. She's brilliant and tried and incredible and I should listen to her more. She was so tired, I know it. But she wouldn't hang up on me. She never does. She lets me talk and she's there with me.
I know being a part of humanity is hard. I know we each have our battles. I know many battles are more intense and scary and lonely and miserable than ours -- by longshots. But as we're on this distorted escalator that is moving forward to a terrifying final stop, and as we're banging on the walls hoping to find a trap door or emergency hatch to escape through (because it happens. People who are 'guaranteed' to be gone in nine months are here three years later, fit as fiddles. A man in Guthrie had such an aggressive, deadly form of brain tumor that he was given three months to "check off his bucket list." And I talked to him two weeks ago... He's been here for 124 more months 100% tumer-less! Our God is a Healer, a Powerful Miracle Worker, a Rescuer. There just may be that miracle door up ahead. Please, Jesus. Let there be!) we're staring life's hardest questions and possibilities square in the eyes. Days and times and two months and two years and two decades and two minutes.
Joel's mama: "And it's so hard, and I've never more overwhelmed in my life. And it's so worth it. And it's so wonderful. And it's not going to be like this forever. It's not the worst thing in the world to be needed."
My mother, the made-with-common-sense, neo-natal, pediatric, army nurse, the science major, the one who has to "just do something creative!" every once in a while, who just loves good church worship, who gave us all our stubborn spirits and refusal to quit character quality, who can interact with a 4-month-old like a flippin' Baby Wizard, who can calm the frantic, serious, noisy rants of a teenage son, who listens carefully to the stories of almost-pre-teen girls, is alive. And we've needed her all of her life. We've sucked and pulled and drained and taken and exhausted and worn this lovely woman right out. And she has, quite simply, lived like it was wonderful. This isn't cheesy. This isn't cliche. This isn't a nicely designed quote on Pinterest. This isn't a sentimental blog post about how my mom was sick once but now she's better. My mom is sick now and this is real and it's heart-breaking. I think about my children never knowing the woman who made and raised me. How could I possibly describe her to them? How could they miss out on someone so beautiful and strong? How on earth could they live a life without going to Disney with her? And hearing her yell at the refs on their behalf?
Mom, it's no small joy that I get to see you every day. That my son adores you. That my testimony of growing up in a "big, homeschooled, conservative Christian family" is so different than so many. You know us as individuals. You didn't place the responsibility of being a mother onto us -- you've carried that burden and that joy. Watching you be a mom and woman and person has made me want to try to give people what you've given me. You make me want to be to my children what you've been to me. I respect you, and thoroughly enjoy you, and wish I could make all your cancer go away.
I pray we are able to share many more life holidays and milestones together. I hope you're in the birthing room for many more Morris babies. I hope we're going out to dinner for many more birthdays. I hope we're sitting in your bed (waaaaay too late into the day) talking about whatever while "The Chew" is on for years to come. I hope you feel better. I hope I get to spend the rest of life on earth with you loving you the way you've loved me. Thank you for your sincerity. Thank you for being my friend. Thank you for being honest and not trying to appear to be something you aren't. Thank you for your determination. Thank you for being able to simultaneously be accurate and truthful about who your children are while being so happy and eager to love us as we are. Thank you for noticing beautiful things and drawing attention to them. Thank you for being a beautiful thing yourself. Thank you for seeing my curiosity, and Caleb's child-like-ness, and Timmy's goofiness, and Katie's big ideas, and Kevin's sensitivity, and Michael's quirkiness, and Shannon's ferocity, and Lauren's communication skills as our strengths. Thank you for making my childhood a dream, for pushing me to find my way as an adult, for giving me the wedding that was straight up magical, and for plowing the way for a future that is hope-filled and good. Thank you for being what God is like even more than saying what God is like: for treating me like I am loved and precious and honored in your eyes. For carrying me. For delighting in my joys and in me, even at my worst. For being brave enough to say hard things to me. For desiring me to be happy, even at the cost of yourself. For making home the best place. For always being available (I don't say 'always' lightly. It make take four-times as long, and we may get interrupted constantly, but you are always available.) Thank you for showing me Jesus-like love and admiration.
Happiest of birthdays to you, mama. Let's celebrate hard and plan to celebrate even harder next year. Maybe I should make eggplant parmesan ;)
Kristen, the privileged first-born of Suzanne Lee Snyder.