Ten years ago this evening, I was cleaning the bathroom when the phone rang. It was such a mundane task to be in the middle of for such a life-changing, earth-shattering moment. The call was that one you dread, the harbinger of sad tidings, loss, and life as you know it irreparably changed.
Mom had just had a massive stroke and was en route to the hospital via ambulance. What followed was a frantic, confusing night in which she never regained consciousness and ended with us tearfully bidding her farewell. We were surrounded by her friends and ours, covered in their prayers, comforted with their hugs, but still hurting tremendously all the same.
She wasn't "officially" my mom. She was my husband's. But when I married him - even well before that - she became heart and soul my mom, too. Ever supportive, always encouraging, she loved us equally and loved us well. We had a common love for gardens and flowers and had just spent the day before together in our annual "April's here, let's get plants" shopping ritual.
When she became a grandmother, she did that even better, if that can be. She adored her grandkids. Her house was well-stocked with toys, playrooms on both levels. She was a ready and willing babysitter. She was the one ensuring the kids were taken out for frequent special outings with Grandma and Grandpa. Photo album upon photo album was filled with hundreds of pictures of Matthew, Cate, Alyssa, and Ben. She didn't get a chance to fill an "ablum" (one of her quirky pronunciations we miss) with pictures of Gracie, who joined our family on Mom's last birthday, barely a month and a half earlier.
Tonight, we'll have dinner and whisk off to conferences for a grandson she never met. She'd have loved him and his funny ways. It grieves me to think of the friendship they would have had and that he'll never get to enjoy it or her, him. He'll never know what it was to spend the night at her house, play in her garden, or walk the boardwalk at the beach with her, Pronto Pup in hand.
Above all, Mom loved her God, passionately. She volunteered for hours in the missions office and elsewhere at church. She had a large bulletin board with a map surrounded by pictures of the missionaries she prayed for every day. She opened her home every week for years to a group of teens wanting a place to have Bible study before school. She studied her Bible and worked hard to live up to and by its words. So we know that while her death was such a great loss for us, it was a tremendous gain for her.
When we left her bedside for the last time, one of us mused about the gardening she'll be doing in heaven, looking forward to the day we see her again and get to stroll through it with her. Outside my kitchen window is a rosebush she bought on our last trip to the garden center together on April 25. It was supposed to a smallish carpet rose, but it's so big now, far bigger than it was supposed to get. Its canes are eight or more feet long and it can barely be contained or trained, and sets new bushes where its canes touch the ground. I look at all that growth from that tiny little bush and think of how much her garden in heaven must be like it after all this time: lush, full, rampant, mature.
I look forward to seeing it with her, to again walk side by side, discussing each plant's attributes as we used to, with our kids nearby, laughing together. Until then, I walk through my own garden, filled with plants from her earthly one, and contemplate how to remember her to my kids, soon to be three now who didn't get to know her. There's such a lot to remember and share.
Which means there's also so much to miss. And I do. Every day.
So, Happy Heavenly Birthday, Mom, with all my love.