Happy Birthday, Mom

It’s been more than two years since my mom went to be with the Lord. Had she lived, today would be her 72nd birthday.

Life expectancy for American women is 81.5. My mom died at 69. On average men in America live 76.7 years.

My mom loved to celebrate birthdays. As the oldest child of two hard working, blue collar people, I don’t think her young birthdays were as monumental as so many are today. She made a big deal of my sister’s and my birthdays, her grandchildren’s, her parents’, her brothers’ and sister’s, her nieces’ and nephews’, and my dad’s. To her every family member’s birthday was a day to celebrate.

Today we would have laughed, remembered my dad, maybe headed to Red Lobster for her to get a huge meal she could never finish, and completed the day with birthday cake and presents. It would have been a great party.

My mom loved life. When on a lake fishing with my grandmother, their laughter could be heard on every nearby shoreline. She laughed at herself and the moments God brought her way. She found joy in life’s little pleasures and God’s simple gifts to her.

Her impromptu prayers for a needed parking space in downtown Chicago usually met with my skepticism. “Take one more turn around the block, son. Now, Lord, you know we need a parking spot. Would you give us one? Right there! Take that one.”

You’d think a pastor would have led that prayer meeting.

My mom loved my dad, and in turn, she taught and modeled to my sister and me a deep love for him too. In public and private my mom’s words to my dad and about my dad only added to my dad’s good name. As his body weakened the last decade of his life, she passionately cared for him even as her own heart was failing. The Lord provided sufficient strength for her and then he brought her home.

Solomon, whose wisdom far surpasses yours and mine, wrote, A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of one’s birth (Ecclesiastes 7:1). In other words, celebrate a birthday because it’s a great day, but it’s not the ultimate day in one’s life. There is a better day, the day of one’s death.

Do you agree with that? Was Solomon wise when he said that? Was the Holy Spirit correct when he inspired that?

When we enter this world on the day of our births, we enter a world created by a kind and wonderful God, but a world irreparably damaged by sin. As new born babes, we encounter sin within minutes of our first breaths and engage, battle, reel, and recover from sin every day of our lives. We are sinned against by strangers and loved ones, and we sin against God and humanity. The sin messes with our minds and ultimately kills every one of us (Romans 5:8).

For those of us who know the Lord, our deathday brings an end to sin. No one sins against you anymore, and better still, you don’t sin against God or others any more. I can only imagine the relief.

For most of my mom’s adult life, she battled anger. Sometimes, I’d overhear the phone conversation with a customer service agent who was not relenting as my mom wanted. She never cursed at the person on the other end of the line, but she routinely gave them “a piece of her mind.” It happened so often, I’m surprised there was any mind left to give. If the person she was talking to was from a call center outside of the United States, there was no chance the conversation was going to end well.

Asking a Christensen (my mom's maiden name) not to get angry with a customer service representative would be like asking the sun not to rise.

My mom loved teaching, but there were occasions where her students caught her wrath. In her defense, 38 years with fourth grade boys can take its toll on a lady.

A pet phrase of hers was “I’m so mad I could spit nails.” I remember two occasions where she actually did.

Like most of us who battle a sin that easily takes us down, my mom battled hers. She could control her anger, but it was a battle she faced until her death. Her deathday freed her from her hard temptation and from every temptation. My mom doesn’t sin anymore!

There are many reasons the deathday of a believer is better than the birthday of a believer, but those reasons are mostly on the believer’s side. For those of us who remain, Solomon’s words make little sense. I am happy on birthdays; I cry at dying bedsides. I laugh at parties; I cry at funerals. I give cards on birthdays; I receive sympathy cards following death. I must think beyond my own limited wisdom and embrace God’s. Yes, a deathday is better for someone I love who knows the Lord than the day of his birth.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!

Happy birthday, Mom! The party would have been a blast, but I am happier still that your deathday was better for you.

I love you, Mom!

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.