Thursday, October 04, 2012

For my mother

Dixie Dozier Lee
November 9, 1945 - October 2, 2012

Ten years ago, I wrote a poem for my grandmother’s death. I couldn’t do that today.

But my mother, like her mother before her, shared similar qualities of love, faithfulness, generosity, and talkativeness – she might’ve been the fastest talker this side of the Mason-Dixon line (though her sisters might disagree).

She spoke almost always first of others. She knew to ask about your health issues or your brother’s knee surgery or your mother’s cancer or a move or a job or a loss – whatever needed prayer.

My mom was bubbly and bright, a flame that flashes out too soon. I was going to say she was like a candle, but I think she was more like a firecracker. Or a floodlight.

She lit up this whole town with her smile.

We’ve said this often, and she probably said it of herself, but she never did meet a stranger. Wherever she went, she spoke of her family and her story. The story of me. The story of her grandchildren.

I’m thankful that our son, Jacob, her oldest grandchild, is just like her. He, too, shares his stories with the world.

But there’s always more to the story.

A million little gifts make up a life well lived. And she was constantly giving her life away.

She gave her life to her friends wherever she lived. She cooked countless meals that she brought in joy or in grief, shared news over countless walks, and hosted parties and dinners with a graciousness that was far better than any Martha Stewart d├ęcor.

She gave her life to her siblings, whom she loved. She loved loads of family – nieces and nephews and cousins and second cousins and third cousins once removed.

She gave her life to my dad some 43 years ago. They truly danced through minefields together. Gracefully. And they remained unscathed.

And when she gave me life, she gave her life to me.

When I was born, premature, at 28 weeks, she came to the hospital every day to hold me. She pumped ounces of precious milk for me to drink and, apparently, fought off a few nurses who tried to give me bottles of formula instead.

When I was a child, she gave my friends and me room to play. And when we came in from the creek, muddy and dripping and spent, she had hot chocolate waiting inside, with mini marshmallows and powdered-sugar doughnuts.

She gave away her life when she worked, as a bookkeeper, or seller of office products, or real estate agent, as a golf course manager, and as a restaurant manager/hostess/waitress/busboy/dishwasher. Somehow it is appropriate she ended up in the “service industry.” She always did the hard work, the part that others sometimes shirked, because she was foremost a servant to us all.

When I was a sophomore in college she often came to my dorm room to stay for a few days. While I was in class, she folded my laundry, chatted with my roommates, and somehow became lifelong friends with the cleaning lady. Of course.

When I moved to Atlanta she came still. She chatted with our apartment neighbors, she took me shopping for proper professional attire, and she could always be counted on for staying up for a late conversation with my night-owl husband, Gaines.

When I was pregnant with Jacob, she came to my 28-week ultrasound, and when she saw that he was healthy, and that he weighed more than I did when I was born, she cried tears of joy.

She gave her life to her grandsons, to my children. She made the long drive often, as often as she could, every month or so, to see them. She assembled Lightning McQueen puzzles with them on the floor, she rocked them and held them, she read fairy tales to them, she traced letters on their backs at night before they went to sleep.

And when those grandsons came here, to visit, she showed them her world. She taught them how to take care of flowers and plants, how to serve up good food, and how to hit a golf ball clean across the pond.

I don’t know everything about my mother’s stories, only a small corner of the patchwork quilt that the Lord has been weaving out of our lives. We only see the underside, the messy part, the loose threads and crooked stitches, the tears and seams and patches. But God sees the completed quilt, the tapestry of all of our lives sewn together in love. And my Mom did a lot of sewing in her days.

Last night, I was reminded of something I wrote a few years back, reflecting on my grandmother’s passing.

“Some glad morning, I know, when all our tears have been wiped away, we will sit together at a glorious kitchen table in the New Creation. [My grandmother] will tell me about Cousin So-and-So, with whom we are somewhat distantly related to by marriage, and about her neighbor who used to live down the street who just happens to be a cousin of ours, too. And will we be introduced, I and those oft-mentioned relatives whom I never met while she was alive.”

And my mother will be at that Table, too, and will introduce me to all the siblings that I never met, those who were knitted together in her womb that she never got to hold. And we will rise up from the Table well-fed, with new, unbroken and glorious bodies, full of more life and vigor and health than we ever had in this world. And we will know fully, as now we are fully known.

I hold on to that Hope.