Forever 53

Today is my Mom’s birthday.  She would have been 95 today.

Of course, I have no way of knowing she would have been 95.  I can’t say with any certainty that she would have lived to 55, much less 95.  Still, I am assuming that, but for the lung cancer that took her at 53, she would have survived to old(er) age. 

As it is, she is forever 53.

She is forever a mother to two young adult daughters, forever a wife of 28 years.  She is like a bug frozen in amber, when time stopped for her, and in some ways, for me too. 

Her death cleaved my life in two: from a mother’s child to a motherless one.   At 23, I was fresh out of college, in my first job, first apartment, first taste of what we now call “adulting.”  And suddenly, a great constant in my life was gone and I had to figure out life without her.

And I did, slowly, and often painfully. I found a career (then another, then another).  I found a husband.  I built my nest in my own home, something she never had.  Some things about my Life-After-Her she’d recognize.  I still do crosswords faithfully, just as we used to do together at the kitchen table.  I still watch old movies, and hold a special place in my heart for all those that were her favorites.

There are things that might surprise her, like my faith or the fact that I am one of those middle-aged suburban women that politicians have suddenly discovered, like a tribe deep in the Amazon, ripe for evangelizing. 

So on this day marking her birth, let me just say that Death stinks. It is the Great Thief, robbing us of so many good things, dividing our lives into Before and After, forever depriving us of possibilities of any forward motion — of healing, of continued love, of forgiveness in the relationship now severed.   Not only is she forever 53, but our relationship will always be only and exactly what it was on the day she died. 

Every Sunday during worship, I say these words:

“I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.

And I do believe that death will not have the last word.  But in the here and now there is pain and anger and frustration in death. Jesus knew this.  When his friend Lazarus died, He wept.  He knew that He was about to bring him back to life, but still, He wept.  He wept at the pain death causes. He wept at the waste.  He wept because our rebellion opened the door to this Great Thief. He wept because Death stinks. 

Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, I will share in His eternal life. But in His tears of grief over Lazarus’ death, I know that He knows my sorrow. There is great comfort in that.

Happy birthday, Mom.