I recently got to spend a wonderful Easter weekend with my dear mother, Peggy “Meme” Johnson, along with my dad and sisters. Mom is in a tough battle with cancer, and is nearing the finish line in her life’s journey. It was tough to see her frail and in some pain, but I’m so thankful that we had a chance to talk and share some heartfelt feelings with each other.
There’s something really special about a mother’s love. She has always been my biggest fan and in her eyes I can do no wrong. Everyone can use someone like that in life, and the role frequently falls on moms. If my whole world were falling apart, I knew mom would have my back and everything would be alright.
I will always remember three things about my mom’s life. First, mom always made Christmas time special. The first 36 Christmases of my life were spent with my parents, usually at our home. Mom instilled so many traditions: ringing bells on Christmas morning and the pronouncement that “he (Santa) came!”; children lining up on the stairwell in order to rush downstairs together to see what Santa had brought; opening presents while drinking hot chocolate and listening to Christmas music; the discovery that Santa had left cookie crumbs and half a glass of milk (just like last year); and the big Christmas dinner with everyone at the table telling what they’re thankful for. We always looked forward to the magic and wonder of Christmas and mom always delivered. She gave us such wonderful memories and traditions to continue with our children and grand-children.
Second, mom has a thing for thrift stores, flea markets, yard sales, and bargains. She is passionate about them. I’ve seen her buy out entire yard sales and take all the boxes home to sort through them. I remember going to a neighborhood yard sale with my mom when I was about 10 years old. I came across a toy that I liked that cost a quarter, and mom asked the lady if she would take 20 cents. The lady agreed and mom handed her the two dimes and then looked over at me to make sure I understood the significance of what had just occurred. Through the years, I’ve received scores of “care packages” from mom with a variety of interesting things she had come across in her latest thrift store adventures. Sometimes I’d think, “I don’t need all this stuff.” But I suspect someday when mom is gone I will miss receiving those packages from her.
Finally, and most importantly, I’ll always remember how mom spent much of her life looking after disadvantaged people as a volunteer and later a social services coordinator. During my middle school and high school years, I never knew what special needs person would be there when I came home from school. Mom would take in these individuals for a night or a weekend to give their parents or caregivers a respite. Raymond wore a helmet because he liked to hit his head against the wall. Lurleen was in her late teens and once ripped her shirt off and ran around the yard in her bra to make a statement about something. As my parents chased her, I shrugged and explained to my middle school friends that she was a friend of the family. Gary was a sweet little baby who we took turns holding and loving on. Marge was an older woman who loved to brush my mom’s hair and then have my mom brush her hair. Tommy was about eight years old and decided one afternoon to take a permanent marker to the living room wall. Mom loved and care for these special people and taught us to do the same. She was the first solid example in my young life of a Christian following Jesus’ instructions to care for “the least of these”. (Matthew 25:40) I hope some day my sons and grandchildren will be able to say the same thing about me.
Before I left my parent’s home on Easter weekend, I hugged my mom and told her I loved her and how much I appreciated all that she had done for me through the years. She expressed similar feelings to me. I told her that if it so happened that I didn’t get a chance to see her again that I would look forward to seeing her in heaven. She smiled and said “promise me you’ll be there too”, and I promised her I would. As I drove away from their home that afternoon with tears flowing down my face, I was thankful that we had had this time together. And I reminded myself to try to live a life that would make her proud, and to keep my promise.
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