Okay two caveats as I begin this post…
1.) I cannot take credit for coining the term “birthgiver”! Lanae, my beautifully witty 13-year-old has gifted me that term. I found it one day when I was scrolling through her texts and read “birthgiver” as one of the contact names. I chuckled and asked her if that was how she identified me. She responded with, “well yeah, you gave birth to me so that seems the most accurate”! Now when I call her, she often answers with, “hello, birthgiver, what would you like”.
2.) I am a HORRIBLE gift-giver. It is the lowest of my love languages, I have very little creativity when it comes to ideas and I genuinely DESPISE shopping so that makes it tricky to purchase gifts. Having said that, my mother is an exquisite gift-giver and often has wonderfully thought out gifts that are exactly what the receiver loves. SO….my gift today is a gift of words. Something I can do well and hopefully expresses the love and gratitude I feel for her on this day that is hers.
On to the gift.
There are a lot of things I could say about this woman. She is far from perfect, she’ll be the first to admit it. She’s got some glaring weaknesses (I haven’t met a human being yet who doesn’t) but she knows who she is and she continues to work hard to accept herself just as she is. But today I want her to remember all that is amazing about her, the strengths she has and the ways she inspires others. I want her to see herself as I see her, be in awe of the life she has lived and the things she has achieved.
We’ve had more than a few conversations about funerals (I’ll share more about that later and I promise it’s not as morbid as it sounds) and we chuckle at how the stories are always so positive and uplifting, they usually make the person sound like an absolute saint even if they are a REALLY big jerk. In all seriousness, I think it’s important for the people you love to know just how much they mean to you while they are still here. They need to know the impact they have on those around them so they feel loved, valuable, and understand just how meaningful their presence is.
Our story begins 41 years ago. The beginnings are not really mine to tell. What I can say is that I am thankful for the decision my parents made to care for and cherish each other through some very difficult times and tell you that from the very start, my mom and I shared a unique connection.
Over the years that relationship continued to grow and with it my admiration for her. To be clear, I have a pretty great relationship with my dad as well, but he has always honoured and encouraged how close my mom and I have been, not expecting or pushing for his relationship with me to be a mirror image. When I was younger, I remember many of my friends and classmates lamenting how horrible their own moms were. They would say terrible things about how mean they were. I couldn’t quite understand how people could talk about their parents that way. My mom was pretty great and even through the moments of discipline I had no doubt that she loved me and what she did was in my best interest.
As a teenager and into my young adult years we had our fair share of disagreements. Obviously we didn’t see everything eye to eye…remember how much I hate shopping, well that definitely did NOT come from my mother. She is an avid shopper, with great taste and we often clashed when time was spent in the mall together. However, in so many other areas she was my biggest cheerleader. I can’t remember a basketball game that she wasn’t in the stands. My grade 8 coach identified her by her loud whistle. He often commented, “oh, Charlene is in the building, I can hear her whistling”! My own children know when they need to come running based on that whistle, it has served her well.
When I was deciding on which university to attend, she had such big dreams for me but I had my mind made up and it really wasn’t until just a few years ago that I realized how much she would have liked me to think bigger. When James and I got engaged at the ripe, “old” age of 19 and prepared to be married 8 months later her and my dad made the choice to celebrate our decision rather than argue that we had so much left to learn before we were ready for marriage. When I was preparing to give birth to my first child she graciously agreed to attend his birth (and then told me she wouldn’t be available for any more births because she couldn’t watch her daughter suffer through that much pain). When I went back to school to finish my undergrad, she kept telling me I could do it and at the same time went back to school to finish her masters. When I went back to school again to finish my teaching certificate, she was the first to say how proud she was of me. She’s always been that way with me, giving advice or an opinion but ultimately quietly encouraging me to choose my path and then journeying it with me. I’ve never heard her say, “I told you so” when things went sideways.
I have not always been the best daughter. I think all children are blind to the sacrifices their parents have made to give them the best life. I’ve said some hurtful things, I made some hurtful choices, I’ve been oblivious to some of her own pain, grief, sorrow, sadness, and struggle. But she has never held that against me. She’s been patient and kind. Ready and willing every single time I come back to her with that moment of “a-ha”, that’s what you were trying to tell me.
In the last 10 years, my respect and admiration for her has grown significantly. Her job has been one of sadness and walking a path with people that many could not handle. She has sat at the bedside of many as they take their last breath, walked beside grieving family members, counselled medical professionals as they care for the sick and dying. It hasn’t been easy on her, she’s taken on some burdens she probably didn’t need to but she’s done it with grace and love, out of service for those who couldn’t do it for themselves. Remember those conversations about funerals? We had to find ways to help her deal with all the death and sometimes it meant a bit of black humour. Not for the faint of heart that’s for sure. But through it all, hearing her heart for the people she serves helps me to know just exactly why all four of her children chose careers in areas of service and why we each chose spouses who feel a deep desire to serve others in various capacities as well.
I am thankful for her continued zest for life, her passion for learning (which I’m 100% sure I inherited from her), her open-mindedness that allows for deep and meaningful conversations, her willingness to try new things, her dedication to relationships, her love of family and the joy she takes in seeing us all succeed. I am thankful for the sacrifices she’s made in order to help us out and her desire to be genuine, honest and truthful even when it’s not easy.
Happy Birthday mom! You are such a gift to me and I hope you know how loved you are on this day and everyday.