I usually write to you on Mother’s Day–a day filled with sweet memories and an undeniable sense of injustice for me. I write about what’s going on with me. I tell you about Dad, about life since you died. I write about memories and church and singing. I write about your humor and grace.
But today, I’m writing to you on the the last day of your favorite month with a confession. Today marks eight years since you passed away. And this year marks the first time that, in the week leading up to the anniversary, that your passing didn’t cross my mind. I didn’t remember it on my own, Mama. An alert popped up from my calendar a few days ago. And in an instant, I realized what had happened.
I can hear you now, “Oh, Jonathan. Don’t worry about it. I know you’re busy.” And I am, Mama. I am busy–in the best way. I’m working on my doctorate. And the church is going gangbusters. Two weeks ago, we raised more than $55,000 IN A DAY and the following Sunday 18 people joined IN A DAY. It was a week for the books. You’d be proud. But I’m sorry I let all of that take over.
Fall was always your favorite season, and this year’s is incredible. There are trees around here that look like they’ve burst into flame. Every fall, I’m reminded of how life goes on: of the newness and joy, of the frailty and cold. And each spring, I’m relieved when the first trees start to bud.
You died on Halloween. And every year, when Halloween rolls around, I giggle at kids in ridiculous outfits and think back to the costumes you’d get for me, to the newspaper-lined kitchen table covered with pumpkin insides, and you with a concerned look as you watched your only child attack that poor pumpkin with a knife.
I know they say time marches on. And the truth is that I want to roll my eyes every time I hear it. HARD. The day might’ve slipped up on me this year, Mama. And maybe it will again. I know you know this, but let me say it just to be sure: You’ll always be in my heart.
Last night, I came home from a hymn sing. We’ve started a new tradition up here: 5th Sunday Night Sing. Every fifth Sunday night, area churches gather for a potluck and to sing old hymns–just like I remember doing growing up. It’s always a nice time, but the songs are different up here–the songs that people call out, that is. I love them all, but none are the ones you’d shout from the pews. So, when I got home, I pulled out an old Methodist hymnal and asked Greg to play one of your favorites: There’s Within My Heart a Melody. I sang; he played. And together, we remembered.
The night you died, Dad and I went to Waffle House for supper. As we sat in the gray and red booth uncertain of what to say or do next, it hit both of us that this was the new normal. And really, that new normal keeps evolving. You aren’t with us in person, but in this new normal, you’re with us all the same. So, I’ll keep singing. And I’ll keep enjoying your favorite season. And I’ll keep the alert on my calendar.
And I’ll keep holding you in my heart always.
I love you, Mama. And I know you understand.
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