Letter Written to My Mother on Her Birthday

Dear Mom,

It’s your birthday today and I know this is going to be another sad occasion for you. I already purchased a card for you but I didn’t like it enough to give it to you. So I decided to write my own. I wish I could paint or draw one for you. I always see ideas of what I would create for you but don’t possess those artistic skills, so I will write one from my heart. I know this is something I can do.

Even with all the burdens and stressors we’ve faced this year – both individually and as a family – we have come quite far and I believe dad would be proud of the progress we’ve made. I sometimes wonder if he can see us or if he’s looking down at us? Knowing dad, he’s still interceding in prayer for each of us by name. Prayer was such an integral part of his life as well as yours. So many times I watched you and dad unite in prayer. It was a common element you shared and it always impressed me at how your desire to go to God was essential for living life. And I learned that even when difficult times were present, we could still find an inward joy that only God could birth.

I’ve been trying to think of what I would write you after facing one full year without pops. I often speculate what you’re feeling and thinking, and the many memories that come to your awareness. You and dad shared many wonderful years together. Quite often, dad would share with me that you were his great joy and love in his life. He saw you as his life companion, always a trusted friend, and a God-fearing woman. And don’t forget, you introduced him to Christ. And because of this, his life was radically changed forever. I hope you didn’t pass by that prior sentence because it’s significant – you touched dad’s life in a very dramatic and permanent way.
I have come to learn that one of the sad aspects of losing a husband or wife is that the surviving spouse often gets unnoticed because all the focus primarily rests upon the one that passed on. But I’m here to remind you of your significance and that your impact on the lives of your three sons was just as important.

As we all know dad was a very special individual. And even the website I created for him focuses much on how his life impacted mine, our family, and so many others. But I want to strongly point out that your life has been equally as important. If you passed away, I would feel the same grief as I do with dad and I would be reflecting and journaling on the precious gifts you’ve imparted to me. The only difference was that your roles were different, and therefore, the losses are different because each of you influenced us in distinctive areas of our lives. But let it be known that you and dad had an equal part in shaping and developing us.

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from you is your compassion for others. I’ve never met someone so concerned about the welfare of others. You’ve always reached out to so many by way of writing cards, phone calls, house visits, or simply stopping someone and praying for them. You’re heart has always been tender for those who are hurting, those broken emotionally and physically, and those in great need.

From everything I’ve read in scripture, this is the same heart God wants us to have for him and for others. Yet, I can’t say that I see this gift lived-out too often. For me, compassion means emptying our selves fully so we have the ability to see clearly the hearts of those around us. When we’re so focused on ourselves, we can’t see anything but us.

A perfect example of emptying ourselves is when we decide to go on a mission’s trip. The whole purpose of such excursions is to totally give and reach out to others. It’s not about our needs but others who are in need. I’ve always noticed the joy one experiences when they try to share what they saw and experienced on such a trip. They’ve been touched in some large way and all they did was give away a part of who they were. This is part of God’s plan for our lives. I realize this is not a mandate for being a doormat where people can take advantage of us. I simply feel that I see our world becoming more me-focused instead of you-focused.

Mom, I’m aware of the many physical difficulties you’ve had to face with your health for over 30 years. You’ve lived with chronic pain for such a long time and you know, firsthand, what suffering is all about. In addition, I know some of the grief significant individuals have caused you. Yet, I’ve seen you turn around and forgive your offenders, even when your hurt was so great. And because you forgave them, it was your love that won them over. Some of them even gave their life to Christ and now live in eternity with our Lord. If this is not living out our faith, then, I’m not sure what it really is.

You’re compassion far exceeds my ability to love as you have demonstrated throughout my lifetime; however, I believe God’s grace is the only reason I have the potential to grow in loving others. As I shared with you earlier, it was your amazing ability to forgive that made a lasting impression on me and our family. But at the time, when you made the choice to forgive over harboring anger or bitterness, we all questioned your choice. Little did we know that forgiveness wasn’t something we learned in Sunday school or even church. It was an attitude that could only be learned by living a continual life of forgiveness, a principle you demonstrated time after time to our family.

Your life modeled unending forgiveness. It’s not an easy choice but forgiveness releases both the offender and the one who is offended. I know the struggle I’ve had to face when I’ve hurt someone. I also know the pain I’ve felt when I’ve been offended by someone I care for and trust. It’s one thing to forgive someone who offends you one time, but it’s another thing when the person offends you again and again. But contrary to the world’s suggestions, Christ tells us to forgive the person seventy-times seven. It was an intentional exaggeration to make a serious point, that being, we must continually forgive others.

I am so grateful for you, far beyond what you know. I am so glad for the mother God has chosen for me, for you have shaped my life in so many ways. You still encourage me to abandon myself and thirst after the One who alone can restore true joy, real love, and a destiny filled with hope once again even despite the loss of dad.

This past year has been filled with trials and several losses. With each one, I’ve had to face them even when it was difficult. But now, even though my gait has a certain limp, may I walk courageously as a soldier who presses on even when he can’t see beyond the horizon. May this new shuffle of mine now have a sense of purpose and a genuine compassion for others; may my eyes see beyond the flesh and into the very hearts of people; and may my faithfulness to God grow with an intensity that far exceeds what I could do just on my own strength. With God’s lead and your active presence, may I grow and stand up for what is right and true, even if I’m the only one standing.

I wish on this birthday I had a great surprise for you – such as dad. Unfortunately, that’s something I can’t deliver. I can only offer you my heart and my commitment to take what Dad and you sacrificially gave to me and be faithful with the talents I’ve been given.

I love you mom,