You may have heard that I had a birthday last weekend. It was a big one. I turned 45, if anyone is counting. And I am. It felt really strange because my mom died at 45. I have always thought she died way too young, but now I feel that sentiment intensely.
For people who have lost a parent young, it is a psychological milestone. We are never quite sure that we will make it to that age, and if we do, what awaits us on the other side? I used to measure time in a morbid way. I would count how old my kids would be when I was 45 and decide whether I thought they would be old enough to live without me. The kind of living that remembers the lessons I have taught them and holds on to memories of me. I was pretty confident that 13 and 16 were okay ages to live without a mom. And I could breathe easy. Then I had a baby at 42 years old. I can no longer count that way. Those thoughts are banished the second they enter my head.
To add to the depressing thoughts, three families that I know of have recently lost loved ones, not parents, but teens and young adults in the prime of life. One friend and her husband are very dear to my heart and her son, gone from us now, was as well. Hug your teenager. There are no guarantees for any of us.
As I play with my two year old right now, watching her dig in a sensory bin looking for hidden pirate coins, I think of my mom and how painful her devastating prognosis must have been. Nobody could have fought cancer harder. She wanted to stay with her five year old. With her seven year old. And with her 9 year old. She would have never chosen to leave her 12 and 13 year old sons. She would not have missed her daughter’s high graduation by two months. And she would never have missed my wedding by a few more months.
Losing my mother so young and so tragically has shaped my parenting. And it is not a bad thing. I have tried to teach dependence on Christ rather than me. I have not sheltered my girls from death. They have attended every funeral I have attended – those of the young and those of the old. Drafting wills and estate planning documents as a lawyer for 19 years has taught me that nothing good comes from ignoring our mortality. Planning for our inevitable end is responsible. Pretending we will never die is foolish. And for the Christian it is bittersweet. Just like my favorite chocolate.
God is still working my mother’s death for good. It no longer surprises me, but it does delight me. The pain is present, but the good is, too. God keeps his promises.
So what do I do at 45? Enjoy every minute with my three delightful daughters and my fun-loving husband. Take good care of myself. Try something new. Invest a little more in my hobbies. Spend more time in prayer. And plan a big party for my 46th. Save the date. You are all invited.
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