May 9th, 1945 – January 20th, 2017. My mother was 71 years old when I brushed her forehead and watched her take her last breath. On December 10th of 2016 she was placed on hospice care and I immediately moved her into my home. I promised her I would never leave her. Forty days later she went home with the Lord. Since, I’ve moved through different valleys and mountains of grief, unbelief, joy and happiness at her memory, but most of all learning to love like she did.
On the eve of my mothers birthday I can barely think of anything except what should I do for her birthday? I’ve decided to let this memory and lesson be my birthday present to her this year.
My mother, Roberta Lee Brickley was one of the most amazing people I’ve known. Her love for people knew no boundaries. In fact, my entire eulogy, which I was barely able to give for my tears was a story of her agape love. I wrote it especially for the audience to which I would address, but most of all to honor who she truly was. While I knew she loved me with every piece of her soul, she never stopped there. She was Grandma. She was grandma to every stray animal, to every wandering soul. To the strange, to the outcast, to the friend and to the friends friends. If you knocked on the door, she would let you in. She couldn’t afford great banquets and feasts, but every meal she had, you were welcome to.
Grandmothers give all, don’t they? She had so little of physical wealth, living on social security, living on the blessings of others. I paid her phone bill, and for her medicines, and moving expenses when necessary. When grocery shopping I always tried to fill up a second small cart to drop off at her house. Don’t think me so saintly yet…I tried to do more, at birthdays and Christmas I tried to spoil her. But to be honest, it was only her last few years I really took notice and gave her the love she deserved. Before that? Well, I was busy being self righteous.
You see, because of my mothers agape love I tended to get a little frustrated. We had family members who left the church we attended. This church was ultra Us vs. Them. Either you were in our church (denomination, flavor) or you were heathen. All other denominations/Christians be damned. Don’t close this post yet! The good news is her love won, and I left that church when she did. My mother considered to show these family members (heathens) unconditional love – she never shut her door to them. And why should she? Sometimes she would ask me, in rare private conversations, I just don’t understand why they treat people like this, referencing the shunning outsiders received.
You were either with us (the church) or against us, and if you weren’t in the church(the local one, none others would do), you weren’t with us. I purchased this lie. Remember I said not to think me so saintly…There were so many years I would barely associate with my family, family, because they left the church (the local one), and since my mother continued to love them, I would be frustrated that my love (groceries, gifts, etc) would be used to support those heathens. To the point that some were suggesting (other ‘saved’ family members) that maybe I needed to cut off the support, phone, groceries, etc. Damnable Doctrines of Devils that would be. This was my mother!
Mentioned in my eulogy was how mom was known to ask for leftovers after large church events. The ladies almost universally snickered when mom wasn’t around (because I was there and never questioned them) that the leftovers were for people who worked hard in the kitchen. Little did they know, mom was always looking to take something so that others who weren’t blessed enough to be there could have something as well. She gave all she had and then looked to find a little more. Yet, the prevalent mentality in our little church was that blessings were for the righteous.
In her later years, as my heart began shifting on these ways of thinking, I quietly adored mom for her ability to see past the scars and stretch marks, the boils and warts. Life can be ugly and sometimes choices can be ugly. Christians can be ugly. The results of both can be uglier. Yet, while we were yet sinners, at the deepest roots of our ugly humanity, Christ died for us.
“Carry one another’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the requirements of the law of Christ [that is, the law of Christian love].” – Galatians 6:2
So many times during my mothers last years, struggling with lung disease I prayed that God would heal her body. Let the miracles of the Word come and give her new lungs! Let the Kingdom of God be glorified, and expanded because of a great miracle! Near the end I accepted her death but still I prayed God would heal her. I am filled with tears now as I write this, feeling my prayers of anguish that I just didn’t want to lose my mother.
In the three and a half months since my mother left this world, I’ve tried so many ways to exemplify her. To adore her by embracing her love and to learn to love as she did. Those family members I rejected I embrace. Those ‘outsiders’ I would avoid I’ll take in. Those organizations needing money to feed the poor that we were told not to support because they weren’t ‘us’, I’ll support.
In three and a half months since my mother left this world I prayed and asked God why wouldn’t you heal her? The church made rousing, shouting messages of God healing so many people, in such miraculous ways, in a remote island of Brazil that takes special boats and planes to get to … of course that way there is no way to prove the story … but we heard the story, we believed the power of God to heal. So why not my mother? Of all the people I can meditate about in my mind that have been close to me, no one loved in a more perfect, Christ like way than mom. And not because she loved ME, but because she loved everyone just the same. So why not heal my mother?
Did Christ come to heal the world, or to Die for the World? Did Christ come to feed the world, or to Love the World?
God has caused me to see, while others think I’ve been blinded. God made me see love, in Loving like She did, while others think you only deserve love after joining the club. God let me see that perhaps my mother loved me so much, that she died for me. Her death caused me so much pain but so much more healing love. Love enough and to spare. Her life has caused me to see the errors in my life.
I love conditionally. I love if you join the church (the local one). I love if you don’t sin. I love if you don’t swear, or drink. I love if you give all your money to the Church and not the Red Cross. I love if you dress the way we say to dress. I love if you obey all the rules and regulations. I love if you don’t ride a motorcycle or watch movies.
What was the love that I withheld?
“This is My commandment, that you love and unselfishly seek the best for one another, just as I have loved you.” – John 15:12, AMP
“He who is gracious and lends a hand to the poor lends to the Lord,
And the Lord will repay him for his good deed.” – Proverbs 19:17, AMP
“He who is generous will be blessed, For he gives some of his food to the poor.” – Proverbs 22:9, AMP
“contributing to the needs of God’s people, pursuing [the practice of] hospitality.” – Romans 12:13, AMP
“We love, because He first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates (works against) his [Christian] brother he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” – I John 4:19,20 AMP
“For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; I was naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me [with help and ministering care]; I was in prison, and you came to Me [ignoring personal danger].’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You as a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘I assure you and most solemnly say to you, to the extent that you did it for one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it for Me.’” – Matthew 25:35-40, AMP
My mothers story is timeless and precious, because she had that Love. Love endures. Love is recognizable. Love finds favor in spite of fault. Love is abused but always recovers. Love leaves the light on and the door unlocked. Love is always a whisper away. I heard my mother whisper i love you right before she was unable to speak again, but I heard her shout I Will Always Love You when she gave her all for her family.
What kind of a gospel would we read about if Jesus only healed the ‘saved of the earth’, or if he only pardoned ‘the ones who dressed right’? What kind of Christian message would we have if Jesus judged the way we judge? We who are so holy, so wise, so uplifted and illuminated. We who have the bank accounts because we are so righteous and those who need, well, they could have the blessings of God too if they would just clean up their act. Until then, no agape love.
No, I’m convinced mom had little so that she could love so much. I’m convinced my mother gave me the desire of her heart when she gave her last breath, that I would love like she loved. Not because she boasted about having the perfect love, she never said a word. Love doesn’t boast, it just gives until at last, it’s gift is received. I’ve received the gift of love, and I mean to give it until its received!
Happy Birthday Mom!