Happy Birthday, Mom!

By Kay Hart

Janice Horton

I am the resurrection and the life.

John 11:25

Today is the third anniversary of my mother’s death. It also would have been her 80th birthday. Three years ago I stood by her bed a few days before her birthday. It was late and the hospice center was quiet. Brett had stepped out of the room for a minute and I was alone. I came to see her late at night after everyone else had left, because that is what I wanted. She was oblivious to my presence, but still I sat beside her bed holding her shriveled hand.

My mother loved her children and she loved her grandchildren well. Her love flowed from a deep well of love for Jesus. She was a woman of prayer and faithfulness. When I was a teenager, young women from my church would come to our house to share a glass of ice tea with her and she would share her love and faith with them. I knew that I was blessed to sit at her table every day, and I knew that it was her prayers that kept my feet from traveling too far down the paths of disaster that I really wanted to try.

It would be tempting to wax nostalgic, but I will resist. Things for my mother were hard and she faced tough choices and I’m not sure all of the choices she made were wise ones. She was very close to her own family but she left them to follow my father across many miles as he served in the Marine Corps. A difficult childhood and two tours in Vietnam left their mark on my father, a fact he refused to admit. On more than one occasion one or more of her children would beg her to leave him, but she always refused. My disapproval of her decision represented the only serious breach in our relationship over the years.

As I sat there rubbing her hand that night, my heart was heavy with more than the impending loss of my mother. Brett and I were having serious difficulties in our marriage, but seemed to be turning a corner for the good. I had shared our struggles with two of my best friends, both of whom seemed certain that my best hope for the future lie far away from my husband. I left my time with them feeling exhausted and alone. There was so much about our relationship that they did not understand. How could they be so certain about the right course of action for me when they knew so little about the life Brett and I shared?

Somehow in that moment two griefs collided. What did I not know about my mother and her decisions? How could I be so certain about the path that my mother should have taken? I was overwhelmed with regret. I had done to my mother what my friends had done to me. I was also overwhelmed with love for my friends because I could see the heart behind their misguided advice.

I leaned over and whispered to my mother, “I’m sorry and I just want you to know, Mom, it was enough. Whatever pain and disappointment we faced in our home, your love was enough, Mom… You loved us all enough.”

Now, feel free to call me a liar, but in that moment my “brain dead” mother opened her eyes and looked right into mine. It only lasted a moment, but it was long enough to break emotional chains that had held me captive for years. That moment made everything that I’d suffered in marriage and with my friends worth it.

I’m thankful that Jesus is the resurrection and the life and I look forward to seeing my mama again someday. I know this will happen because I’ve seen him raise dead things already. Things like marriages and families and faith. There are still some “dead things” in my life that need resurrection and when I start to lose hope I remember my mama’s eyes. “You loved me enough, Mom. You loved me enough.”

Kay Hart — Married to Brett, Kay raised four children before embracing a call to enter the public sector.  Her work in government gives Kay the chance to explore the opportunities and challenges of living in the Kingdom of God in the secular workplace. Kay experiences thin places most often in early morning prayers as she works through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.

3 responses to “Happy Birthday, Mom!

  1. Thanks, Aunt Kay. I love this post. I read it while I rocked John John to sleep and then I gifted myself some quiet time to think about Memom with a sleeping baby in my arms. And you’re right – she loved us well and it was enough.

  2. Kay, I was deeply moved by your story. Thanks for sharing so deeply from your heart. I think it’s so great that God gives us these wonderful opportunities to see deeply hurtful things in new ways and then to receive the grace to connect with His forgiveness and mercy in just a glance. I won’t call you crazy. I’ll call you blessed.

  3. Kay, I am crying as I read your story. It is such a beautiful expression of the heart of God for you and your Mother and for the healing that HE alone can give. I was blessed to read it and remember your struggles and how God brought redemption.
    Thanks for sharing.

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