Tomorrow is my Mom’s birthday. Her favorite day that she often stretched out into weeks. She was never phased by soccer practice, or late work schedules because she loved to split the different aspects of her birthday into as many days as possible. Cake one day, presents another, a special dinner on another. She adored being made to feel special.
And as this day neared, the 3rd birthday that she’s been gone, I’ve been waiting for the dread that always befalls me before one of these “reminder days.” There’s nothing significant about the day in particular. I don’t think of her any more or any less. I don’t miss her any extra or push aside the memories of my last moments with her any more frequently. But her absence feels bigger on these big days. Her absence feels more consuming and more unfamiliar. Why? Because you’re supposed to call your mom on her birthday. That’s like entry-level, minimum requirement to be a child of a mother: if you never talk to your mom you still call her on her birthday.
But as I said, those feelings hadn’t hit me quite yet. They hadn’t snuck in and wrapped their hands around my throat making it hard to breathe as a revolving wheel of memories plays on the big screen of my mind. And so tonight I made some brownies from scratch while my dear friend sat at my kitchen bar and we talked. And before she left, bless her, she asked how I felt about tomorrow. I told her I wasn’t sure but I would know tomorrow. And then it hit me: Tomorrow is her birthday. My mother’s birthday. Where instead of calling her with my kids where they would sing her the birthday song, and she would dance and applaud their little efforts. Instead of having her open her gift on video chat and saying I didn’t need to get her anything (but absolutely would be upset if I hadn’t (which I get. Because my love language is gifts all the way)). Instead tomorrow I’ll eat some brownies with my kids and try to tell them about the Nan they’ll never get to know.
And I’ve heard the encouragements, friends. And I believe them with all my heart. She would want me to rejoice and do something fun. She would want me to make lasagna and laugh and think of all of my favorite things she did and how she always made birthdays a huge deal and how that will be something that will be with me forever. But tonight, as my heart feels as gooey as the brownies I took out of the oven too early- those things just don’t feel like they are enough.
A shadow of the mother I had will never be enough. One more phone call with her would never be enough. Even the reason for her death, written up and bound and notarized with all the logic and explanation would never be enough.
But maybe that’s the point. This is all not enough. This world is not enough. C.S Lewis says it well: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” Friends, tonight I am not feeling made for this world.
And thank God for that. Literally, praise God that we aren’t made for this world. Psalm 116 Says “Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.” (ESV). I can’t call my mom on her birthday and that breaks my heart in a way that feels unfair because it is unfair. But “Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. For you have delivered my souls from death, my eyes from tears…” (Psalm 116: 7-8, ESV).
I may not be able to call my mom to wish her the happiest of birthdays, but I’ll never stop being thankful that God bends down to hear my heart and to return my soul to rest. I’ll never stop calling out to the one who hears me. The one who knows me. The one who weeps with me but promises better days and a world that’s far better than the present. I can’t wait.
Happy Birthday, Mom.