For Heather…23 years together

For many years I’ve written birthday letters to my daughter. Not a single year since her birth have I failed to remember how profoundly my world changed the very moment I took her in my arms and felt the bond between her heart and mine. So fiercely I wanted to protect her. So intensely I loved her! How amazed I was by mother love.

Though connected to her as I carried her for 9 months, it was nothing to compare with the beauty of the experience of seeing her and being able to trace her precious little face with my finger and hold her tiny hand in my own. It still brings tears to my eyes to remember…

I’ve already shared in previous blogs how even the names of my children became songs I sang in the first days of their lives. I would literally sing the name…”Heather Marie Marie Marie…” I couldn’t get enough of her sweetness. The tenderness of those moments, the innocence and newness of life!; to think that God would give me such a gift overwhelmed me beyond anything I can describe. I was so young and had so many moments of fear intermingled with the wonder and joy. If not for all the Mamas that surrounded me to offer reassurance and encouragement, I’m not quite sure I would have made it!

I thought surely something terrible was wrong when she screamed in the night and wouldn’t go to sleep. After all, I thought, doesn’t she need some sleep? So small, yet so able to stay awake for what seemed like days at a time. I won’t ever forget feeling like I had sand in my eyes because they had been awake for so long without sleep, and to think…I was going to be a Mama forever! Can a person ever really be prepared for motherhood? I don’t think so. The Good Lord just gives us what we must have in order to care for them or surely we wouldn’t make it through the first year with all the firsts, the fevers and cries, sleepless nights, cutting teeth, ear infections, viruses, falling off the bed (or down the stairs), the list goes on and on!

I can hardly believe it has been 23 years until I begin to take account of all that has transpired. I was just a 17 year old girl when Heather came along and now I’m a 40 year old Granny with a 5 year old son of my own. It seems so strange to me still to find Heather no longer lives under our roof; instead, she has her own home, a husband, and a precious little boy who calls her Mama. The years went so fast. I didn’t know then what I know now, not by a massive stretch. So many things that once seemed so important pale in comparison to the truly significant gifts of life I now hold dear.

If I had it to do over, I would slow way down. I would take more walks with my girl and listen more closely to what she had to say. I would linger over meals together instead of rushing to get on to the next thing on the list. I would go easier on myself and easier on my girl too.

I know, I know, I only wanted what was best for all of us, but best I’ve learned, is always loving, gentle, peaceful, patient, and kind. Surely we had some precious years and we did take enormous amounts of time to read together curled up under a quilt. We read all of Louisa May Alcott’s works and many others. I watched over my girl with great care and loved her with my whole heart. Her blonde hair and blue eyes and that mischievous grin was my reason for facing each day for many, many years. I still have a connection to her that is unique to her alone. The depths of love have indeed proved endless as we’ve traversed the many ups and downs of the “growing up years.”

I’ve also learned as a mother something that has given me great compassion for my own Mama and for all others. None of us know everything. We are all still learning and growing and there are difficulties that we face that challenge us beyond what we could ever have imagined. Without faith, without turning to God for wisdom and strength, I can’t imagine how anyone endures. The world is such a harsh place and yet we are challenged to walk in faith as our children, those tied to our hearts, leave our presence and go out into the world. We teach them, encourage them, and prepare them as best we can, but ultimately we have to let them go and they then have to determine where they will find their strength and their guidance. We pray they will turn to the only source that cannot fail, to the Lord who brought them to us in the beginning.

I used to tell Heather “having children is like having a part of your heart up walking around on the outside of you.” After having children, you are never, ever the same again…Life is never the same, and I am glad.

A few things I know for sure…I know I am a more loving person, a more forgiving person, a more genuine person, and a more humble person because of what I’ve learned being a Mama. I’ve learned to be more caring and to be more careful and to value every moment of life as a gift to be treasured. I’ve learned to recognize so much more about what it is to love someone and to miss them when they are not as close anymore.

When Heather moved out, I cried my heart out. I didn’t know if my heart would ever mend. I missed her so much my missing was palpable. I would go into her room just to feel near her. The house felt so empty, so void, too quiet. I would find myself looking for her to come home only to remember she wasn’t coming, this wasn’t home to her anymore.

When she came for a visit a few weeks later she noticed there were many things hanging on the walls that had not been here when she left. As she looked around she found pictures of herself and of Noah along with other family photos. Not only were they hanging, but many were hanging by ribbons, some even tied in a bow! There were more floral pictures hanging too and a little more stenciling on the walls. When she asked about it all I answered with honesty and said “my little girl left and took the flowers, ribbons, and bows, and I miss her.” She understood as only my girl could.

And now we have Riley in addition to Noah! Not only are my walls still adorned with ribbons and flowers and pictures of earlier days when a little girl enriched our home with a beauty all her own. Our home and lives are bursting with little boys and their toys. The walls have taken on pictures of snakes and snails and puppy dog tails so to speak as we’ve grown to incorporate this whole new and wonderful world the Lord has brought to us through the gift of their lives.

So this journey we are on, one truly designed by a God who loves us so, continues to teach us and grow us and give us more than we could ever have even thought to ask. For you, my sweet Heather, I am forever grateful. I love you even more with the passing of each new day and I thank God for giving you to me. As I’ve said before, if given the chance to pick any little girl in the whole world to be my own, I would still pick you!

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