When I twirled, the full skirt of my new Easter dress bloomed around me like the ruffle of a daffodil. The sunny yellow and white windowpane checked fabric matched my mother’s new dress, as did our white shoes, gloves and hats. My mother’s flair for sewing shone in the mother and daughter outfits she made for an Easter church service and luncheon. Being only five years old I barely recall the event, yet I vividly remember feeling proud to be dressed like my lovely mother.
My mother was the center of my world yet there were times when she seemed to disappear even when she was physically present. I realize now that she suffered from bouts of depression, related to the long absences of my sailor father on navy voyages and his battle with alcoholism. Deeply hurt by his condition, she would retreat into a shell, even from her children. I remember trying to read her face so I would know how to respond to her. She was a beautiful woman but when she closed herself off her pale, taut face seemed to belong to a stranger. I watched her for any sign of my real mother returning. Chores were done without being told, little bouquets of wild flowers offered and hugs given even when she wouldn’t hug me in return. Somehow I believed if I was a good little girl she would become the warm, loving mother I missed so much. Actually it had nothing to do with my behavior and all to do with my father’s.
We always knew we were loved and wanted, however my brothers and I grew up with the fixed knowledge that we were secondary to the foundation of our parents’ love for each other. In spite of my father’s increasing struggle with alcoholism, their love gave me a sense of security I felt was unshakable. Coming into a room to find them in each other’s arms made me squirm in delight rather than embarrassment. Sometimes I squeezed my small self into that treasured place between their embrace just to absorb the overflow of their love.
Because she loved him so wholeheartedly, my mother was devastated to lose my father to cancer when he was just 60. At that time I was a young mother of three myself, raising a family and struggling with my own marriage problems. I was also a new believer in Christ, so I shared with my mother the little I knew about the Savior I loved, to offer her comfort. In God’s providence, He provided a caring Christian neighbor who befriended her and shared the healing truth of the gospel so eventually my mother became a believer too. Her new friend invited her to church and enfolded her into a warm circle of women who ministered to her hurting heart and helped her grow in her new faith.
It was a gift when she came to live in our community so she could be closer to my family. Visiting for hours over tea in her bright seaside apartment deepened our relationship beyond mother and daughter, because now we had a common faith to explore. Together we joined a Christian Women’s Club luncheon group where we made friends and memories. My children grew up with the knowledge that Grandma was their biggest fan. She faithfully attended their school concerts, came to their birthday parties and encouraged them in all they did. I soon realized that my mother had become my best friend.
There were still times when she was unreachable, when grief for my father rose strong even after many years, when all I could do was pray for her. These times sent the roots of her faith deep because she realized how much she needed the Lord. I learned so much from her in her suffering. When my time of suffering came with a vengeance, she was there by my side – steadfast, generous, loving me as only she could.
My mother loved celebrating Easter. Her warm brown eyes teared up whenever she talked about what Jesus had done on the cross to save her. She embraced the traditions of Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, preparing her spirit with topical devotionals and events. Her holiday weekend was usually spent with us, often accompanied by gifts of chocolate eggs and bouquets of spring flowers.
As a little girl in a matching twirly Easter dress, I loved my mother with a child’s dependence and adoration. Because the wonderful truth of the first Easter morning rose in both our spirits, we became more than mother and daughter – we became sisters in Christ. The anticipation of our someday reunion in heaven is particularly sweet when Easter comes around each year.
Valerie's devotionals can be read on her blog https://scriptordeus.wordpress.com