The Perfect Card
This is my story of how Jesus redeemed a mother-daughter relationship that others would consider unredeemable. Miracles do still happen when we do life God’s way!
I used to dread picking out a mother’s day card.
Every year I’d go through the same process. Something purple because it was my mom’s favorite color. Something with as few words as possible because most messages didn’t apply to us.
I was adopted when I was four months old. I was passed over by potential parents because of a skin rash I developed. I still get it once in a while when I’m stressed. I guess I was born stressed out.
My mom said when she saw my blue eyes she knew she had to have me and the rest is history.
Sam and Jenny were simple people. My dad never graduated from High School and I don’t think my mom did either. My dad worked hard all his life. My mom stayed home with us kids, hard work too.
I can vaguely remember my mom talking about her childhood. I met my grandmother. I didn’t know her very well but she seemed nice enough. I never met my mother’s dad. I saw pictures of him. He smiled with his mouth but not with his eyes. My mother said he was mean and growing up he would beat her as she worked in their field until she passed out.
How sad. How scary.
Like Father like Daughter
Turns out, my mom was a lot like her dad and the cycle of abuse continued in our home. It mostly happened when my dad was at work. He worked swing shifts so he was gone a lot. Still, he knew.
The thing I dreaded most was going to bed wondering if this was going to be one of those nights.
Everything happened sequentially. I would think about the sequence and then start counting down until it was my turn. Having a rough idea of where it started and where it would end gave me some element of control. I liked that.
She’d always start in my brother’s room. I’d hear thrashing, banging, and screaming. I always felt so sorry for my brother. His screaming and crying seemed so undignified to me. It would last roughly five minutes. Doesn’t sound long but it seemed like an eternity to me.
I would curl up in a ball with my back to the door. I thought maybe if she sees that I’m asleep she’d change her mind. I knew better but I still hoped. The sequence would start and I’d get lost in the countdown. Curl up. Cover up. Count.
The only difference, I wouldn’t scream like my brother. I didn’t want to give her that satisfaction. Which in the end, meant the sequence would take longer, but I didn’t care.
And then one day it stopped. I grew up. I was taller. I was stronger. I held my mother’s fists and said,
“We’re not doing this any more.”
Years later, after I had my own kids, I found a wonderful Christian counselor that helped me heal those old wounds. I heeded all of her wise counsel with one exception.
She said, “You can walk away from your mom.”
The Fork in the Road
I had to think about that one. I kind of liked the sound of it. It certainly would be easier than sticking around. After all, who would blame me? And right about then, Jesus chimed in.
Honor your father and mother.
The bible is peppered with that command. It’s one of the 10 commandments (Exodus 20:12). It’s repeated in the book of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 35:18-19). Paul reiterates it in Ephesians (Ephesians 6:1-3).
Honor you’re your father and mother.
There are no loopholes. No abuse escape clause. You have one set of parents. Honor them. It’s not a question of “if” but a question of “how?”
Gotquestions.org puts it this way, “Honoring your father and mother is being respectful in word and action and having an inward attitude of esteem for their position. The Greek word for honor means to revere, prize, and value. Honor is giving respect not only for merit but also for rank. For example, some Americans may disagree with the President’s decisions, but they should still respect his position as leader of their country. Similarly, children of all ages should honor their parents, regardless of whether or not their parents “deserve” honor.”
Dave and I recently had a pool built. Dayton was the man in charge of the project. He’s extremely credible in our community as a pool builder. The day finally came when he was going to teach us how to take care of the pool. I interrupted him and told him about something I read online that contradicted his instructions and he said?
“Listen to Dayton. Don’t listen to the Internet. Don’t listen to friends. Don’t listen to the concrete guy. Listen to Dayton!”
Dayton knows things and so does God.
When it comes to living our lives, we need to listen to God. Listen to God. Don’t listen to friends. Don’t listen to counselors. Listen to God! And as long as what you hear God say agrees with scripture, that’s the route to take. And God clearly says,
Honor your father and mother.
Honor the Best I Could
When my kids were growing up, we’d visit my parents. Our conversation was friendly and polite. Sometimes a little forced and it generally remained surface level.
After my dad passed, I stepped up my visits with my mom. I’d take her to dinner and grocery shopping. I hated the grocery store because I’m not a shopper. Shuffling through the aisles with an 80 year old is painfully slow. I especially dreaded the frozen aisle. So many choices! It seemed to take forever.
I’d shoot an occasional text message to Dave or a friend with a picture of my mom staring into refrigerated glass cabinets. It would take 20 minutes to get the same items we always got, spaghetti dinners and chicken potpie I’d get a text back with some lighthearted perspective and an encouragement to be patient.
Our conversation was friendly and polite. Sometimes a little forced and remained surface level.
After my mom was diagnosed with stage four-breast cancer, I’d take her out to dinner and grocery shopping. I’d take her to her oncology treatments. I started to linger a little longer. We started to talk a little bit more. Our time and conversation was still forced but better.
When my mother’s disease progressed, we convinced her to move closer to us. We found an independent living community not far from our home. I’d visit her almost everyday. I wheeled her around in her wheelchair. I helped take care of her dog. I helped her dress. I changed a few diapers. My mother thrived there. I thrived there. We thrived there.
My mom made friends and couldn’t wait to introduce them to me.
“This is my daughter,” she’d say beaming with pride. And then she’d add? “She’s a Christian!”
Every single time I’d visit, I’d meet the same friends and we’d repeat the same conversation?
“This is my daughter. She’s a Christian!”
They’d politely smile back and say, “Yes, we know.”
Slowly, I began to see that she really did love me in her own special way and I began to change. My heart started to soften. I was able to see her as a once sad little girl in a field beaten by her father. While she was far from perfect, she was forgiven. She was my mother. She deserved my love and respect. I could give her that.
One night, I received a call telling me that my mom had fallen. The paramedics came and said she had no injuries. They lifted her off the ground and put her back in her recliner.
The next day I learned that she had actually broken her hip and shoulder. She suffered like that all night long until she was eventually found the next morning. It broke my heart.
From the ER, she was moved to a nursing facility. Upon arrival, they failed to give her the proper dose of pain medication. They told me to wait outside while I heard her screaming in pain as they changed her gown. They moved her up and down, left and right. I could only imagine how every movement sent searing bone crushing pain through her broken body. When I could take it no more I burst into the room and made immediate eye contact with my mom. She couldn’t speak but the look in her eyes was pure, “Help me.”
I went into full protector mode. I yelled at everyone to stand back. I demanded her pain medicine before they even think about touching her again. And then I held her hand, stroked her arm, and spoke gently to her until she drifted off to sleep.
After that, she never regained consciousness and died a few days later.
Our time and conversation would always be a bit awkward. A little bit forced. But in the end, it did get better. I got better. I got the gift of talking to my mom about Jesus. Confirming that her belief in Him was all that was required to be saved. We talked about heaven. She talked even more with the hospice Pastor. I could see God’s peace on her face.
Had I not listened to God, Honor your father and mother, I would have missed the end of His story, the blessing of some unexpected moments with my mom, and a future free from regret.
One Last Card
All those years, I could never find a card that made sense. This will be my first mother’s day without my mom. I think I’d still pick out something purple. I’d still look for something short and simple. And I would add…
I miss you terribly. Thank you for loving me the best that you could. Thank you for letting me care for you in your last days. Let’s plan on a good long talk when I meet you in Heaven. Happy Mother’s Day. Love, Your Daughter.