Thursday, July 7, 2016

Celebrate Now

My mama did not like surprises. Or parties she didn't throw. Or being the center of attention. So to say it was hard to celebrate her is a bit of an understatement. It was impossible.

When she died just over two years ago, we came across a note she'd left where we couldn't miss finding it:

No service! She had written. Just say a prayer and sprinkle my ashes over your dad's grave.

To that note I said, If you die, you don't get to decide. And we had a lovely service full of beautiful memories shared by nearly all her nine grandchildren, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing sung by two of her grandsons, long-journeyed relatives and friends sitting alongside us laughing and crying, and some all-star praying from one of Mom's favorite pastors.

But she had to die for us to pull off such an elaborate shindig.

Today, my mama would have been 85 years old, and oh, how I wish my three sisters and I were planning a sneak attack of cupcakes and flowers and gifts that she would graciously acknowledge by telling us she'd had enough birthdays and we should be spending our time and money some other way.

After the modified appreciation perhaps we'd all sit in her well-appointed living room and eat too much cake and drink coffee together. I hope we'd ask her all the questions I've regretted not asking her when I had the chance:

Who is that man in the picture with Grandmother? 
Did you ever think you couldn't forgive Dad for something? 
What kind of young mother did you think I was?
Where did you learn to be so friendly with anyone/everyone? (How did I turn out so opposite?) 
Why did you stop drawing? 
What is the magic in those brownies? 

I feel like I could go on and on with the questions, because at least one new one has popped into my head every single day in the 762 since she died.

Today is Mama's birthday. I plan to celebrate her life by writing a letter to one of her oldest, dearest friends. Maybe I'll ask him a few of the questions.

And I am writing this as a cautionary tale to all who still have Mamas in this living, breathing space:

Sit with them.
Ask your questions.
Record their voices.
Secure the recipes.

And, well...take a cake, whether it's her birthday or not. She deserves to be celebrated.

Mom...beautifully enduring a surprise celebration 5 years ago - her 80th birthday!