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Have you called your Mama today?

This will be my first Mother’s Day without my mother and I’m not looking forward to it.  I know there are lots of others who’ve been in this situation for years, but I’m a rookie in this club that no one wants to join and I feel like one.  Mom died in October after 81 years of life.  Her passing wasn’t a big surprise, she had been in declining health for some time.  I thought I was prepared for it, and I guess I was---as much as anyone can be. Still, I miss our phone calls and visits. But basically, I just miss her. 

She lived a little over three hours away and it was nothing to hop in my truck, drive to Madison, and take her to Bandito Burrito (her favorite restaurant).  My truck doesn’t have a step-up so I’d cobbled together a little step stool for her to use when getting in and out.  I’d told her a few times that if I could make it to her age and have the ability to get in and out of a truck with the grace she did, I’d be a happy person. 

Since she had been in assisted living, our visits had been reduced down to a simple form;  I’d drive up, we’d go out to eat, and then after visiting a bit, I’d head back to Opelika.  Occasionally I’d spend the night at the house she still owned and we’d go to Books-A-Million the next morning where she would forage for word search books and paperback novels.  And there were those times when she was in the hospital. Those were the most difficult because she had moderate dementia and being in the hospital was completely disorienting to her. But most of the time our visits revolved around going out to eat. I suppose that doesn’t seem like much, but those visits were one of the reasons we had moved back to Alabama four years ago.  I hadn’t been able to do that kind of thing when we lived in Arkansas and I guess I quickly became attached to it.  In fact, I haven’t taken the stool out of the back of my truck because it’s a memorial to those special times.

One of the greatest blessings God ever gives us is our parents.  (I recognize there are parents who aren’t blessings, but I’m not speaking of them other than to say it’s sad that they seem to get the lion’s share of attention).  We come into this world completely vulnerable, totally dependent, and aren’t able to make it on our own (usually) until sometime in our third decade of life.  Who is it that feeds, clothes, supports, and takes care of us?  Well, you know the answer to that.  So much of what we are is due to our parents unwavering presence in our lives.

I’m in my sixth decade of life, not far from my seventh, and as I look back on my years at home I can see countless ways in which God blessed me through my parents: they taught me responsibility, disciplined me when I needed it, lived out their values, encouraged me in the ministry---the list goes on and on.  And like many kids, there was a rough patch of rebellious years when I went from dependence to independence that pains me to think about even now.  Fortunately, I didn’t stop there and eventually I reached the stage of interdependence (none too soon for Dad and Mom I’m sure).

I was blessed in that I had plenty of opportunities to tell my parents how much I loved and appreciated them, and I did my best to take advantage of it.  As a parent, I’ve also been on the other end, and know that when one of my children tell me something along these lines . . . well, there’s not much in this life that means more. 

Year ago, Bear Bryant did a commercial for the phone company where he talked about how the coaching staff encouraged the players to keep in touch with their families.  At the end he asked, “Have you called your mama today?” Then Bryant added these words on his own: “I sure wish I could call mine.”

I hear you Coach, I hear you. 

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