As of August 31st of this year my mom has been gone for exactly 20 years.
Almost all of my adult years have been lived without her. Although I strongly believe she's watching over me, I still miss her deeply, especially on the day she died and on her birthday. Last year my heart was comforted in a new way.
As usual, I posted a small message on Facebook on the anniversary of her death. Along with the usual condolences, I got a new kind of message. It was from a childhood friend I had lost touch with through the years, and only found again because of mutual friends on Facebook.
Sarah and her sister Emily lived in my neighborhood when I was very young. We all went to the same elementary school. Then we moved out to the country and my family exploded with foster children. I began to treasure the times I got to sleep over at Sarah's house. Her family was almost the polar opposite of mine.
Her mom was the only divorced parent I'd ever known. The three of them lived in a small house just a few blocks from our elementary school. It was quiet and calm and peaceful at her house. My family lived 15 miles out of town, in a house that was overflowing with my own four siblings as well as a revolving number of foster siblings. It was never quiet, calm or peaceful at my house.
I didn't like having sleepovers at my house. It felt like there was too much intrusion from all the other people who lived in that space. I loved going to Sarah's house, which was calm and cozy and where her mom strategically stayed in her bedroom so we felt like we were all on our own.
What I didn't know, until just last year, was the as much as I loved hiding out at Sarah's house, she loved coming to my house. She loved seeing a huge family all sharing one space. She loved the constant interruptions. She loved watching my mom coordinate our family circus.
So on the 19th anniversary of my mom's death last year, Sarah sent me a message through facebook. "I saw your post about your mom. I am very sad for your loss. She made a significant impact on me. She had a truly amazing spirit. In fact, he dedication to foster care was inspiring to me. Yesterday, I finally got the approval to adopt children of my own. My plan is to adopt older siblings from foster care. I have been thinking about doing this since spending all that time with your amazing family. The reach of your mom's inspiration is long and deep."
Her news touched me deeply. And somehow it didn't surprise me to find out that it had all come together on one of the two days of the year that I celebrate my mom. I chose to think of it as a way my mom was watching over not just me, but my friend Sarah.
I expressed my excitement to Sarah, about her brand new family, and told her to consider my mom an honorary grandmother to her future children. I assured her that as much as my mom watched over my own kids as they've grown up, I was sure she'd be watching over Sarah's.
And I told her one more thing. "Watch the date of October 11th".
My mom's birthday is October 11th and if I've learned anything about how my mom still speaks to me, I've learned that she loves to work through her special days.
Sarah received her two little boys last fall. They've been working on becoming a family for almost a year now. They've turned her life upside down in all the best ways. She's finally getting to experience all the joys and pains that the rest of us have already lived through with our preschoolers. And she's given a stable new life to two little brothers who had not known much of stability before they crossed her threshold.
Over the weekend I got a text from Sarah. "When's your mom's birthday?" is all it said.
I knew it. I knew it would happen, but still it took my breath away.
When I answered 'October 11', Sarah immediately replied.
'October 10 is final termination of parental rights. We start official adoption October 11th'.
There it is. She's still out there. Watching over me. Watching over my children. And watching over a little girl named Sarah who is all grown up now, and is making life choices because of her amazing influence.
Happy New Family... Sarah, Timothy and Andrew.
You are surrounded by people who support you and will love you in your growing up years. And you'll always be watched over by a very special grandma whose life decisions 40 years ago changed the course of your lives today.