So today is my mother’s birthday and when I ask her – as I do every year – what she wants, she always tells me the same thing. “I want you not to fight with your sisters”. If that was possible, I would have done it gladly years ago. (Just kidding. I love my sisters and we don’t fight. Too much).
Anyway, I thought long and hard this year about what I could do to really make her birthday happy, although this is a woman who has been happy virtually every day of my life. I can count on my hands the number of days when she’s experienced true unhappiness (or at least when I’ve seen her unhappy) and most of them had to do with the death of her brother and my darling Dad. She embraces life, even when it’s not great.
We’ve always had joy in our house because my parents entertained so much. There was always laughing and love, hugs and kisses, food on the table, church on Sundays and friends (both ours and theirs) coming and going. And my Mom and Dad made this happen, every day, every week, every year. We were loved beyond all words and we knew it. We were blessed. And my Mom was the driving force behind all of it.
Far too often we wait until it’s too late and never tell the people we love how much we love them. Or we never let others know the goodness of their heart, the generosity of their spirit, the kindness in their soul, the understanding and compassion. So if you’ll indulge today, I want to tell you about my mother and why she is such a special person.
Not only did my mother lose her own mother shortly after she and my Dad married, she had her own father and brother move in with her and my Dad (with a baby – that would be me – on the way) and both stayed with my parents, my grandfather until his death and my uncle until he married. Their doors were always open for anyone who needed a place to stay. And that continued right through high school and college when my Mom would awaken on a Sunday morning to find our friends (does this ring a bell, Jimmy Courage?) asleep on the couch, the recliner, the floor. Everyone was welcomed with no questions asked.
She’s the person who remembers everyone’s birthday (and if my second Mom/cousin Cooky reads this, she’ll back me up) and always always sends a birthday card. She literally sends out about 100 birthday cards a year. For the younger ones on the birthday list, she always includes a $5 bill so they can buy a little something. And it’s not just closest family; it’s her brother’s grandchildren because she wants to carry on his legacy. It’s Cooky’s grandchildren (all 7 of them). It’s the children of my Burke cousins. It’s what she does because – as she says – she can.
When she’s able to, she’ll tell me she’s putting “a little money” in my great kid’s bank account (and I know she does the same for my niece and nephew). A few weeks ago when I was so under the weather I couldn’t work a full week, she let me know she’d put some money into my bank account so I wouldn’t find myself short on cash. She is generous to a fault, not only with her money but with her time and words.
My high school friends love her and insist I bring her to our occasional lunches. When any of them need prayers for themselves or a family member, they contact me and ask me to have my Mom pray for their intentions. She’s got a long list of people she prays for every day, including me. I know God hears her because I know some of the miracles my friends who’ve struggled have experienced. She’s got connections in heaven, if you ask me.
Many of you who may read this (and, if you do, my deepest thanks for reading my random thoughts) may be too young to remember the Vietnam War. But there was a unique program designed to help people remember the service members who were either prisoners of war or missing in action. You’d send in your $3.00 and get a bracelet with the name, rank and date of loss. And the organization that made these asked people to commit to never take them off until the prisoners of war were released or the remains of those missing in action were returned home. My Mom’s bracelet said Harley Hackett III.
Captain Hackett went missing in action on July 9, 1973 and his body was never recovered. And to this very day – 42 years later – my Mom still wears his bracelet because of the promise she made when she put it on. She’s never taken it off and I know she never will. That story should tell you everything you need to know about my Mom
She’s had her share of ups and downs, good times and bad, days when she and my Dad didn’t have 2 coins to rub together but always had love and faith and belief that God would get them through anything. And He did and He does.
The last few years have been tough for all of us with my Dad’s illness and death and my Mom having her own share of heath issues. But now she’s amazingly healthy, a marvel at keeping active both physically and mentally. A woman who likes a bad joke as much as the next person. A person who enjoys seeing a good movie and then talking about it, dissecting it later. A Mom who always lends a hand, who somehow know when one of us needs her and never judges, never criticizes, never blames. A mother – and a grandmother, an aunt, a cousin, a friend – who sees the best in everyone, who loves her children and her grandchildren more than anything and who is the reason I try every day to become the person she thinks I am.
So Happy Birthday, Mom. My words are my gift to you this year. You inspire me, you lift me up, you let me know how much I’m loved every day. I thank God He placed me in your care because He knew you were the perfect Mom for me. And you are and I love you for that and always will. And I’ll try not to fight with my sisters this year.