A Life Lived & Celebrated

Today would have been Mama's 75th birthday.    Part of me reads that as "should" rather than "would."   I want her to be here.   I need her to look at me as only she could and I need her to tell me what I should do in so many situations as a mom.   I need to know more about what I was like as a child and how much of that is reflected in my own little ones.   I need her to tell me all the old stories again as the names and faces of those relatives so distant to me are fading.   I need my children to have a grandma.   I just need her.   Here.

Here and now, that's okay for me to feel.   I've given myself permission to let the tears flow today and indulge in a good cry, without any pep talks or attempts at pulling at my own bootstraps.   Because my favorite memories of Mama are her just being there.   There in that moment.   Sitting with her friends and laughing so hard that tears were streaming down her face and she couldn't speak.    I get that from her.   Pacing and having to finally leave the room during March madness basketball games and then sitting and crying for the losing team who lost at the last second.   Bringing out pictures of Greg on his birthday and letting the tears fall as she remembered her first-born and all his suffering that she couldn't take away.   Her face, beaming, as I caught sight of it in the crowd at an assembly or awards ceremony.  

I think of her every time I read this now-favorite passage of mine from author, Heather King:

When a person dies whose existence has been all comfort and ease, we might be envious of the comfort, but we also sense that he or she had missed some essential point.   When someone dies who has suffered, on the other hand, we might feel compassion, or pity, or even that the person brought the suffering upon him or herself.   But we also think: Ah--that person lived. 

Mama lived.

Mama lives.   Lives on.   She lives on in the faces of my children, especially in my middle child, whose resemblance brings me to tears sometimes.   She lives on in their personalities.   Emmeline is creative and sees things with an original artistic eye, just as her grandma did.   Clare is pure passion and spunk.   She is fearless, but is the most easily hurt and most sensitive to others.   She loves to serve when she sees a need.   Thomas is my social butterfly.   He loves to meet people and play with them.   And he loves a good laugh and making others laugh.  And he's affectionate, always ready to show others that he cares.   There are moments when I stop and see my children as I think Mama would have seen them.   And I appreciate something new in them; it's like she's showing me.

She lives in the stories that I tell my children and friends about her.   She lives on in my friendships with beautiful women who are there to laugh, cry, and just be with.   She lives on in her paintings and the antiques she refinished.   She lives on in her recipes as I share them with others.

She lives because I live.   She sacrificed and accepted sufferings so they wouldn't be mine.   My time is not my own.   My life is not my own.   It was bought by Christ on the cross and it was bought by my mother with her own crosses.   I need to live this life.   Here and in every moment--in the beauty, the sorrow, the joy, and even the monotony.  

In the midst of the tears today, we celebrated Mama (& Grandma).   The grandma who is synonymous with heaven for Clare.   She wants to go there because she never got to see Grandma, but more importantly to her, Grandma never got to see her.   She sees you, honey, I reassure her, but she still feels the need.

Today, I needed Mama to be here.   And her grandchildren needed me to make her memory alive to them. Her memory doesn't need to hide in tears, but it needs to live--in me, in them--as she lived.  

We bought some gladiolas.   Glads--for me--tidings of comfort and joy.   One of Mama's favorite flowers.   She grew pink ones on our farm and shared them with friends and neighbors.

Kentucky Fried Chicken and grape soda in a bottle.   

Mama and her friend Carmel liked to stop at KFC after shopping or going to garage sales.   They also used to make regular visits to one of Mrs. Carmel's relatives in a nursing home in Natchez, MS.   She loved being taken out for lunch and her favorite place was KFC.   When someone criticized Mama and  Mrs. Carmel for taking her out for such an unhealthy meal, Mama's reply was, "It's not going to kill her and even if it did, she'd go happier than she would left in that nursing home."

Three blessings--and daily glimpses of Mama
 Mama loved Grapette soda as a child.   She said it was the same price as Coca-Cola, but it came in smaller bottles, so it made for what was an agonizing decision for a child.   She preferred the taste of Grapette, but a coke was a rare treat, so she wanted to get the most for her money.   She usually went with the Grapette, though.   After all, she lived!

Oh, how this little boy would have melted her heart.

And dessert for this celebration: the heart of a watermelon and the centers of cinnamon rolls.   Mama always said if she was ever rich, she would eat the heart of the watermelon and only the centers of the cinnamon rolls.   That's what we did, because life's too short.

Happy Birthday, Mama. 


  1. Happy Birthday to your mom! She is very proud, no doubt. Great post, you are such a wonderful writer.


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