One year ago yesterday (December 19) my mom died, leaving a huge hole in my heart, a gaping space in my world that will never be filled this side of heaven. I am blessed—abundantly blessed—with a fantastic husband, wonderful children, and great friends. But she was my only mom. No one else in the world really knows you like your mother.
I realize that, sadly, this is not always the case. But it was for me. Next to my husband Woody, my mom was my best friend. She listened to me. (I sometimes wonder how many hours she clocked listening to me—probably years, really, considering the chatty child I was right from the beginning.) She loved me. Selflessly. With the kind of love only someone who knows you “warts and all” can truly give. She laughed with me. Such a gift: a sense of humor.
This morning I was suddenly reminded of one of the most fun weekends of my life. Mom, Erika, and I had the great privilege of speaking at a three-generational mother-daughter retreat. I think the attenders were blessed—I hope so. But I know that Mom, Erika, and I had a blast. We laughed more that weekend than I’d ever thought possible. I came home from the retreat thinking, “Wow! My mom and my daughter are just fun people to be with!”
Above all, my mom prayed for me. Not only for me, but for Woody, for all her kids and grandkids by name, and for countless family and friends spread throughout the world. Mom really knew how to pray. In the last days and even weeks with her, I kept asking myself: “How will I ever live without Mom’s prayers?” I just couldn’t imagine not being able to pick up the phone and fire an urgent prayer request her way. I knew she would pray. I knew she would not forget. I knew she would ask me about it and let me “vent” as long as I needed. But she would also point me Godward, lovingly redirecting me and helping me re-establish perspective.
Well, I’ve lived through one year now without those phone calls. Oh, how I miss them! But I’ve come to understand that I do not live without her prayers. For one thing, it seems to me that she must still be praying for me in Heaven. After all, the Bible not only invites us to pray on this earth; it commands it. And we’re told in the Scripture that Jesus prays for us at the right hand of God the Father. Surely His people in the celestial city must also pray. And if there’s prayer going on, you better believe my Mom will be there!
Then there’s the banner that stopped me in my tracks outside the worship center in our church last Sunday. It’s a quote from E. M. Bounds: “God shapes the world by prayers. Prayers are deathless—they outlive the lives of those who utter them.” Deathless prayers. What a thought. My mom’s prayers will continue to live and bear fruit not only in my life, but also in the lives of my children and grandchildren. Even those born after she left us. Even—maybe especially—the one named after her—tiny Gabriella Eyla Cronin. What a gift her prayers are—the ultimate gift that keeps on giving. What a gift every one of us can give our children—and each other!
All day yesterday I kept thinking of an old poem which I believe captures the essence of my mom’s life. Ironically, it is included (with no attribution other than “selected”) in one of my mom’s favorite devotionals, Streams in the Desert, in the reading for December 19, the day of her death. I’ve seen it elsewhere given the title, “Call Back”:
In her life, Mom was constantly “calling back” encouragement to others—women in her Bible study groups, moms in her Mom To Mom groups, friends, family. Especially family. And now in her New Life, I believe she still calls back. Not only by the example she left us and her many words so lovingly remembered. But also in her prayers. Deathless prayers.If you have gone a little way ahead of me, call back—
It will cheer my heart and help my feet along the stony track;
And if, perhaps, Faith’s light is dim, because the oil is low,
Your call will guide my lagging course as wearily I go.
Call back, and tell me that He went with you into the storm;
Call back, and say He kept you when the forest’s roots were torn;
That when the heavens thunder and the earthquake shook the hill,
He bore you up and held you where the lofty air was still.
O friend, call back and tell me for I cannot see your face;
They say it glows with triumph and your feet sprint in the race;
But there are mists between us and my spirit eyes are dim
And I cannot see the glory, though I long for word of Him.
But if you’ll say He heard you when your prayer was but a cry,
And if you’ll say He saw you through the night’s sin-darkened sky,
If you have gone a little way ahead, O friend, call back—
It will cheer my heart and help my feet along the stony path.
OK, I still miss the phone calls. I desperately miss them. But I am reminded that, despite the temporary absence of two-way communication, she still calls back. And so, it seems, can we in the lives of those we love. An eternal gift. I am grateful.