Updated: May 2, 2020
My dad's words of wisdom that I hold closely were, "Think twice, speak once." It likely comes from the carpentry idea of measure twice and cut once, but these words became all important when I was faced with saying goodbye to him for the last time. Over the years I had many things I wanted to say to my dad: words of frustration and anger, words of confusion and pain, but when I was faced with my last moments with him, the only words I could think to speak were words of love. As he moaned in pain and squeezed my hand, all the anger and bitterness left my heart, and compassion and grace filled it instead. Being angry was meaningless because leaving him was so final and this was my last time to say what I needed to say. All I could say was, "I love you and I don't want you to struggle in this life any longer." These words were easier to say because in God's infinite wisdom He gave me my own face of hope to look to, my mom.
In June of 1990, my dad walked out and left my mom jobless with a lot of bills to pay. During their eighteen year marriage, she endured criticism for her faith, took jobs she didn't want so she could pay for bills she didn't create, and never once did I hear her grumble or complain. Each morning after he left, she'd wake up, make a cup of tea, and go out on our back deck and thank God for her blessings. When she should have been fretting over the things of the future, she found comfort in knowing God had it under control. When she could have become bitter, she bravely trusted that things would work out and God would provide. That summer I remember people waiting for her to fall apart. I remember our local church providing me scholarships to attend camps. I remember my Poppop helping my mom with a budget, and I remember seeing my mom shine in her strength. She wouldn't get a full time job for three more years, but in that time, God provided a home for us that she could afford and we learned how to count our blessings. Much of that came from growing in our faith together.
When I was four, my mom found a personal relationship Jesus. She would be criticized and mocked, but she would also be sought out for hope when those same people who criticized her needed hope themselves. My mom was the one who ingrained in me that it wasn't enough to know something, you need to know what it means. My mom was often a beacon of hope to the students she'd engage with at the schools she worked for during her career. My mom has always been my voice of reason, my safe place to fall, and apart from my husband, my best friend. Like my walk with God, I can tell my mom ANYTHING and know she'll never stop loving me. Ever since the day my dad walked away, her prayers were for him to show me he loved me. She never once said anything to turn me away from him. Never once looked for revenge. All she ever wanted was for him to love me.
Think twice, speak once. When the call came that my dad would likely pass in the next 48 hours, my mom's only concern was that he would want to see me. Perhaps that was why when he requested I see him, I was able to speak with love and not anger. Her continual hope for his soul was unrelenting. When she had every reason to be angry and bitter, she found herself in prayer. Her prayers were not of thanksgiving that he was finally gone, her prayers were for his soul. We had our weekly family breakfast last Saturday and on a whim, I invited my mom at the last minute to join us. We discussed suffering and how it's part of this life but that it doesn't need to destroy us. After our meal, she went home and took time for her daily quiet time with God. It was around 11:30 in the morning and she prayed and practically begged God to do whatever it took to make sure my dad would spend eternity with Him. An hour later my dad passed away peacefully. She thought twice and spoke once, and her words were ones of hope and salvation.
The next day I found myself humbled by my mom's faithfulness while we worshipped at church. I found tears streaming down my cheeks with thanksgiving, not sadness. I realized in all my years of sadness, focused on a man who struggled to trust God, God had provided me a mom who would faithfully follow Him. I'm not a mystery. I'm a blessed mother. I'm a humbled wife. Most importantly, I am a loved daughter of one of the most incredible women I know. I'm honored to call her my mom and I'm thankful that she had the courage to think twice and speak once. When you're ready to give up, when you're sure you've exhausted all options: make yourself a cup of tea, watch the sunrise, and count your blessings. You never know what could come your way in the future.