Yesterday, I was telling some girls at work that when I was younger, I'd be in hospitals so much because of my asthma and my favorite thing to do was to grab my IV bag and visit the other patients and ask them about their lives, which was hell of a lot better to do than stare at my room's ceiling and listen to myself breathe. The girls at work didn't seem fascinated with my story and focused on only one thing: "Why were you alone? Wasn't your mom with you?" And I said, "Oh, Mama never really came to visit me when I was sick. She was only there to pick me up, and that's also because she had to pay the bill."
Well, now you're in heaven and I'm glad you're there. Really! I know you had a hard life, Mama, so it's great you're living it up somewhere vastly more wonderful than here. I do miss you, especially now that I'm going to have a baby. I want to raise my child the way you raised me but apparently your way isn't popular anymore. Listening to all the unsolicited advice I get these days, one would think you were a truly terrible mother. "Children should be loved, you should never leave them alone, you shouldn't let them play outside, you shouldn't spank them, you should be their friend, you should feed them organic stuff only, etc ad infinitum nauseum." Mama, kids these days are coddled and treated like emperors, like they were the centers of their parents' universe. You always made it clear to me and my siblings that God was the first in your life, then Papa, then--if there were no other people who needed your help--then and only then do we enter the picture.
I kinda liked knowing that we weren't that special, Mama. For one thing, no one can ever accuse any of your children for being spoiled brats. We're kinda wonderful actually, all smart and talented and strong. People think your children are fantastic, Mama! And we are, we are indeed. So if anyone dare say your way was wrong, well, let's just see what kind of kids they bring up!
I think you understood parenting more than anyone these days. Parenting is for crazy people actually because it's a doomed relationship. From the moment your child takes its first breath, you teach it the skills to do just one thing: Leave you. And you, unlike most parents who just baby their children, you always pushed, pushed, pushed! And look where I am now! I know you're so proud, Mama.
To be honest, I wouldn't be who I am if you had always been there. Well, you were there for me by not being there all the time. Sometimes, I would feel you holding back, sometimes I felt you closed your eyes, sometimes I felt you turned away. All those times made me stronger, because I knew that though you didn't help, you did so consciously, knowing I'd be better if I did it on my own. And I am. I don't know what willpower it took to stop yourself from scooping us into your arms, from not quitting work to be with us, from not defending us when we whined. You were one tough mama!
You always did actually. And that entire time we were at the wake, a strange thing happened: We found ourselves comforting others, instead of the other way around. We had taken over your role of comforter and guidance counselor--you kinda didn't give us a choice!--even though we were the ones who lost a mother and a wife. But by stepping into your shoes, we became better human beings.
This reminds me of that story you told us of two sisters, Mary and Martha. Jesus had visited their home and Martha was super busy cleaning and cooking so that Jesus will feel important. Mary sat by His feet and listened to Him speak. Martha got angry and said, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" And Jesus said, "Martha, Martha! You are worried and upset about so many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:38-42). Now, I always thought this story was stupid and an excuse to be lazy. But when you died, Mama, I got it. It took me 32 years but I finally got it. You always did choose the right thing and now you have been rewarded.
I miss you,