It’s been said that the most important relationship in a woman’s life is with her mother. I remember it like yesterday, although it feels like a lifetime ago: I was sitting in a hospital waiting room surrounded by family, hours having passed since we got the call in the middle of the night that my mother’s body was failing after a routine heart valve replacement.
My brother had just gotten married the weekend before; I was a 15-year-old sophomore planning to attend my first Sadie Hawkins dance that night. But none of that mattered at the moment. I sat quietly in a corner facing away from my family, embarrassed for them to see me. I was talking to God, probably the first real time in my life, pumping my hands together in a fist, through my tears crying out, “Lord, let my hands be her heart. Let me pump for her. Let her live. I need her. She’s my mom.”
I was truly desperate and playing the odds that because I’d never really asked God for anything big before, He’d give me what I wanted. I had a great life. Loving parents and extended family, the right neighborhood, friends, church, school, town. Enough money to know I could ask for just about anything, but humble and sensible enough to not ask for the pony.
You know, perfect.
I was disappointed that day by God. He didn’t give me what I wanted. I didn’t understand how a girl like me, who always did the right thing – really, I made my bed without my parents having to ask – could be punished like this. I was confused by His decision to take her from me.
I spent the rest of my high school years burying my feelings getting involved in clubs and sports, surrounding myself with the noise of friends, Friday night games, and finding significance in what I did. In fact, I had subconsciously made it easy for myself to live without my mom. I shut out the need for her through my busyness. I hid it well with being the funniest or loudest person in the room. I didn’t want to cry in front of family. I knew it would just hurt more. So I didn’t talk about it.
See? I am fine on my own.
But college. I attended the University of Kentucky and quickly realized that my extroverted characteristics were dwarfed by a large school. The old “little fish in a big pond.” The independence that comes with college quickly defined itself as loneliness to me.
No one will care if you go to class. But I did, because I am a rule follower. This is my journey.
No one else is going to fight for my future. It’s just me.
I was jealous of friends who had their moms come up for weekends of shopping and lunch dates. I was in a sorority and mom-daughter teas really had me feeling left out.
And let’s not forget that college has its rites of passage: first loves…and break ups. Girl drama. Boy drama. Rigorous classes. Did I choose the right major? I found myself craving a coffee talk with my mom because I knew she could help. Her death had left a void and I was feeling its depth more than ever.
It wasn’t until my sophomore year, November 15, 2001, that I sat in a Campus Crusade for Christ meeting feeling sorry for myself as I remembered that 5 years ago to the day, I was in a waiting room pumping my hands and bargaining with God to no avail. Suddenly, and what I know now as the prompting of the Holy Spirit, I was taken back to the morning she died.
A friend of our family handed my dad an envelope just moments after the doctors told us she had died on the operating table. The contents exposed were from my mom – her Will and Last Testament, obituary without the date, and three letters each addressed to my dad, brother, and me. Her surgery was routine – a 98% success rate, but my mom was always prepared…or maybe she just knew something we didn’t.
Five years later, I went back to my dorm room after the CRU meeting to read the letter again and the first words she wrote finally made sense to my heart:
“My sunshine and loving Jenny, If you are reading this, know that I am safe in the arms of our Heavenly Father. Faith gives you a powerful inner strength. I have believed since I made a profession of faith at the age of ten that there is life after death and that there is a Heaven.”
That semester of college had been particularly hard for me and I had come across a Bible verse just days before re-reading my mom’s letter to help me deal with the stress:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1: 2-4
Timing. It’s all in God’s timing.
I am not wise enough to know if God would have moved sooner in my life if I had let Him, instead of shutting Him out and feeling sorry for myself. But I do believe in God’s perfect timing, and it was that moment in my life that I surrendered my heart to Christ. I forgave Him for taking my mother away. Her death serves a greater purpose, one that continues to beautifully unfold today. It isn’t always easy to accept her death, but in those moments I know that God has designed in my relationship with Him a need to depend on His love and comfort.
Our loved ones will die, we will feel the pain and loss, and we will hang on to our memories for comfort. But a relationship with Jesus Christ will never die.
His love is eternal and we will never reach an end to the connection we share with Him. A mother’s relationship with her daughter is so important, but what is even more important is the relationship we cultivate with Christ.
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