Today would have been my sweet mama's 61st birthday. For those who don't know me "in real life," she passed away EXTREMELY suddenly when I was seven months pregnant with Jeremiah.
It was October 15, 2008. I distinctly remember driving home from teaching sixth grade... usually, my commute home was a semi-coma of exhaustion. I called to check in with Mom, but had to leave a message. I hung up, and for some reason spent my entire car ride home blissfully happy. I cranked the radio and sang, did some solo car dancing, and thought about how blessed I was at that exact moment. I arrived home feeling fresh as a daisy, and for once did not collapse face down on my bed for a 2 hour nap. I fixed dinner. Life was good.
Throughout the early evening, my sister and my dad called to see if I had heard from Mom. I told them I'd left a message at the house, and that she was probably out at the grocery store without her cell phone. Mike and I sat down to dinner-- pork loin, mashed potatoes, and peas. I will never forget that.
The phone rang, it was my brother in law, and he immediately asked to speak to Mike. I could tell by his voice that something was off, but didn't think much of it. Within 2.6 seconds hearing Mike's side of the conversation, my heart was on the floor and I just knew. I don't know how, but I knew.
We sped down to my parents' house, where my dad was waiting for us. Mom had passed away in her sleep, peacefully and with no pain. She was recovering from some orthopedic surgery earlier in the summer, and the only explanation we ever got was it might have been a blood clot from that. We still don't know exactly (they chalked it up to "natural causes" and left it alone), and it didn't matter then in the slightest. My mom was gone and I was 9 weeks from delivering my first baby.
I've been told by many people who were there that her funeral was perfect. I don't really remember it, to be honest. I have a recording that I can't listen to, even 3 years later. It was held on the day of the Georgia/Florida game, and we made sure to be all wrapped up in time for kickoff. My ever-loving aunts somehow managed to find the only florist in Georgia who would actually make the "Jesus Called Her Home" styrofoam floral heart complete with phone receiver (my mother got endless hours of amusement from tacky funeral flowers, and that one ALWAYS made her laugh), and we sang Motown music right alongside "How Great Thou Art".
As I was out running errands today, the very song we sang at her funeral-- "Reach Out" by the Four Tops-- came on the radio. Not only was it one of her favorites, and not only did we have a well choreographed family car dance to it, if you get right down to it and pay attention to the lyrics, it works. Mom will always be there, giving all the love we need. More importantly, God will be there-- all we have to do is "Reach Out."
I truly feel, looking back on that drive home the day that she died, she was in the car with me saying her goodbyes. That might sound completely off-the-wall to some people, but I know myself well enough to know that there was something different about that drive home. I knew it even as it was happening, but I certainly never would have dreamed of the possible explanation. I felt her again in the car today, rocking out at the red light to Motown.
During this season of uncertainty in my life, there are lots of times I want to lay down in the floor and beat my fists on the ground and have my mom come make it all better. She would know the right things to say, and even if she didn't, she'd make up something brilliant that would somehow ease my mind. I know without a shadow of a doubt that she would pray with me, and pray for me. She'd explain all the scary NICU procedures and would probably go tell Egleston that she would be assigning herself to Parker's care. Somewhere in the middle of all that, she'd tell me to stop worrying, to stop laying down on the floor and beating my fists, and to let go.
And so, I am still. I allow myself to feel the peace that comes with giving it up to God. I allow myself to feel my mom, who is with me always. I allow myself to feel the love and support from hundreds of people that covers our little family. It's easier than I thought it would be.
But sometimes, stillness just won't do. Sometimes you've got to put on a pastel polyester suit (is that pink???), do a little sidestep, and be reminded-- God's there. Mom's there. All our prayer warriors are there. We are so very blessed.