Many of you know that my mother committed suicide four and a half years ago. For me, Mother’s Day will always be a bittersweet reminder of past memories savored and future memories lost. I know the pain of losing a mother way too soon, of losing a mother tragically and unexpectedly.

My loss obviously pales in comparison to that of a ten year old who saw her mother succumb to the ravishes of AIDS and now heads the remaining household of four children younger than herself. But I do understand on some level the feeling of having love ripped from you in such a way to cause deep, lingering wounds.

It’s long…but I offer below the letter that I wrote to my mother and read at her funeral. Maybe it will help you to remember or appreciate your own mother or the mother of your children today. Maybe it will assist you also in understanding that an orphan simply isn’t a child who lost parents. That child is a real life with real hurts and real memories. Her parents were real individuals with real stories and real love.

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(Image: Sylvia Myhill with our daughter, Faith Myhill, shortly after she was adopted in November, 2002)

YOU BROUGHT ALL THE PIECES TOGETHER, MOM

Dear Mom – my sweet, precious Mom

You were always there for me, Mom. All my cherished memories from childhood have you at the center. You were a good part of the glue that held us intact. You truly loved us; went out of your way to please us. And you were very proud of me, I know.

…and you brought all the pieces together, Mom.

I’m sure the dictionary would simply define a mother by position, not influence. It might address some of the qualities of being a mother. But you were much, much more than that, Mom. You gave us the two most important things that you were capable of giving – your love and your time. And you gave in abundance.

You probably never realized just how much God used you to shape me, Mom. I know that you obviously know these things to a degree, but I just wanted to publicly thank you for that great love, that great influence.

I was given my analytical side by Dad, and always wanted to please him through developing such cognitive abilities. But the sweet creative side, that wonderful balance and passion within me, came through you, Mom – my example, my teacher, my muse.

I can still remember a young boy in his room in England, looking out the back window, painfully trying to draw a picture of the house just over the fence line. The attempt was without depth, without perspective, without proportion. A tender mother knelt down and said, "Look honey. Look at the house. Look how the windows aren’t set right into the corners. Look how the roof line actually protrudes over the structure below." A brief moment. A powerful moment. I never looked at things the same way again.

You fueled that creativity in me. Your early sketches, rug designs, numerous macramé creations, sewing and fabulous knitting work. Likewise, God used you to knit the strands together in our lives, bringing order and wonder to the materials provided.

You also truly shined through your stained-glass art, Mom. Everyone was blessed by it. You didn’t hoard it. You willingly shared it. Your favorite subject matter for such designs – animals and angels – is indicative of your passions for things both simple and supernatural.

The pieces of glass were of great variety – of different shapes (either smooth or jagged); of different colors, opaqueness or transparency; and of different textures, bubble patterns, and iridescence. Individually they were simply an interesting diversity of fragments. But you brought them all together into a beautiful whole where the result was truly much greater than the sum of its parts.

A stained glass piece then needs the light to shine through it for it to truly reveal its brilliance and to cast its wonder beyond itself, projecting out an array of colors that fills a room and brings delight to the heart. You were that ray of light, Mom. You gave these creations away with a big smile and tender wishes, allowing them to have a radiance from within. You were the light source that shone through the tessera and brought gladness to the spirit.

Like the stained glass pieces you brought together into such a wonderful unity of diversity, so you did also with our lives, Mom. I had broken pieces, jagged pieces, pieces of inferior form and quality, pieces of odd color and texture. But you lovingly worked with them, trusting that your son could also be a work of art, something to be proud of.

You brought all the pieces together, Mom.

One of my most cherished times was to see a beaming mother adoring the paintings of her son on public display to thousands of people. Followed by the simple e-mail stating "I’m so proud of you, son" when those same paintings were made available on the Internet. God gave me the talent, but you were the vehicle for it, the immediate encouragement and affirmation of it. Thank you, Mom.

A piano.

Eighty-eight contrasting notes. Major and minor keys, sharps and flats. Strike any two keys randomly and you probably have discord, disharmony. But just like the stained glass, you brought all the diverse tones into unity, working them into wonderful arrangements – melodies of great harmony and passion. Different tempos. Different intensities. But all beautiful. All masterfully brought together and lovingly played as two young boys listened on, in awe of their wonderfully-talented mother. This same mom, who had just made a shepherd’s pie, was now casting a sense of wonder in us, entertaining us, firing passions within us. The same mom who had just stepped out of the kitchen and fed us (as our greatest chef) now stepped onto the grand stage within our minds (as our greatest piano maestro) and played for an elated audience of two.

The sounds of your favorites – Chopin, Beethoven, Rachmaninov, and yes, Elton John – gave me the ear for the auditorily beautiful, just like your art had given me an eye for the visually beautiful. What a wonderful balance you provided.

You brought all the pieces together, Mom.

When we were children, you rocked us. When we were teenagers you rocked with us. Just as you gave us a passion for music, you shared our passion for the same music – Pink Floyd, Genesis, Eric Clapton and others. One of my fondest memories of you is seeing you there, clapping, dancing, reflecting, at the Pink Floyd concert – not as a chaperone, but as a fellow fan. Our friends said you were a cool mom. Words cannot express what that meant to me, meant to us, to hear our teenage peers expressing comments like that. I cannot remember a single moment where I was embarrassed or ashamed to have you around them. Other friends didn’t want to be seen with their mothers, wanted instead to be dropped off at school on the corner so their friends didn’t see their "goofy" parents. Not true with you, Mom. I was proud of you and your stature, your "cool" reputation, amongst my friends. Instead of division, you brought unity.

You brought all the pieces together, Mom.

A kitchen.

A dizzying array of stoves, crock pots, pressure cookers, food processors, fryers, pots, pans, utensils and more. Just equipment and tools. But in your hands they too, became part of a remarkable symphony. You rarely used a cookbook. What impressed me, and what was impressed upon me, was your knack to simply create as your heart led you. A haphazard assortment of ingredients that just happened to be on hand – spices, vegetables and meats; unprepared items and leftovers – become a gourmet treat. You could craft amazing meals seemingly out of nothing, taking random elements and bringing them into wonderful unity.

You brought all the pieces together, Mom.

The world.

A fascinating mix of people, places, tribes and tongues. You talked often of discovering it, of traveling together to see all of it. You wanted to experience it and bring all its elements together in your mind – part of that desire to bring the pieces together, Mom. I heard your heart and started having similar yearnings. I’ve now been to more countries than I can count. I was scheduled to leave for nine more the day after you took your greatest journey home to the Father. That trip was postponed, but will now have even more depth of meaning to me. I will relish every road traveled, every adventure revealed, every experience encountered, remembering that the passion to journey initially came through you, Mom.

You brought all the pieces together, Mom.

Our family’s life together.

We were quite the mix of personalities, weren’t we, Mom? An interesting, but trying, combination of dichotomies – shy and exertive, mind and heart, intuition and thought, faith and hard reasoning, creative and analytical, judging and forgiving. You tried so hard to bring all those pieces together, didn’t you? You sacrificed your own desires and dreams to nurture family unity. You gave of yourself in order to give to me – your heart, your time, your finances.

You always shouldered any problems, wishing to take on the burden to create healing and growth. Your sacrifice and commitment to the family was absolutely amazing.

The tragic irony of your passing is that, even now, you bring all the pieces together. God’s word – His promise – is that ALL things work together for our good and for His glory. I hold onto that promise now, believing that your soul is at peace, and believing that your family will continue on in peace, in unity – a unity you constantly worked at by bringing all the pieces together, Mom.

The prayer of Francis of Assisi is printed in the funeral memorial program. What a precious and applicable prayer it is today: "Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace…" It is you, Mom. It is you. You are that instrument even now.

The prayer ends with the line "It is in dying that we are born to eternal life."

Mom, I begged God for the answer to that question on Wednesday, as I propped up on the tree that you leant against in your final hours. In anguish, I cried out to God for some sort of sign that you are with Him – that truly being the ONLY consolation. On a grey day with nothing but thick overcast, the sun momentarily broke through and I could feel it upon my head. I looked up and saw it cutting through the clouds. Bright, yet softened. I felt a comfort, but wanted more.

God’s plan is summarized in one simple statement: Acknowledge that we all fall painfully short of God’s holy standard and simply trust that He has reached out to us with a truly precious gift – eternal life available through His son, Jesus, as the sacrifice for our shortcomings, as our passage into eternity. You did that, Mom.

I returned from the tree and saw your diary entry: You acknowledged shortcomings, sins that we all possess. You said that you were giving your sins to Jesus. You wrote "I give it ALL to you, Jesus. Forgive me please. Please help me with my longings." You had that simple faith of a child, Mom. Scripture tells us that Jesus is that sin-bearer, the same sin-bearer that you called to in your diary to take your sins for you. We just have to accept Him as such. You did that, Mom. And now you are making your heavenly shepherd’s pie in heaven – and for the Great Shepherd.

Further affirmation came moments later. Dad, Stu and I were sitting in the game room. Dad asked me if that was my new Bible sitting on the table. I had assumed it was his. It then became clear, Mom, that it was a Bible you had just bought. There was a bookmark in it. It was a chapter I had asked you to read. To the very end, you sought to honor me, to understand, to continue to seek God. I knew this, Mom, but I never fully appreciated it until that moment.

Jesus said, "My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ."

Jesus desires unity. He ultimately puts all the pieces together. Jesus was in you.

…and you brought all the pieces together, Mom.

Psalm 23 was shared here at your service: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quite waters, he restores my soul." That is exactly what He did, isn’t it, Mom? He took you to an open area, to a tree beside a stream. He has now restored your soul and has brought your pieces together.

Mom, you were my biggest fan, my cheerleader, my encourager. I will continue to be encouraged by your love, your influence. May I now draw upon God and the wonderful example He provided through you – to bring all the pieces together.

I love you, Mom

Your son always,

Paul

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