It was early morning on the day of my 92-year-old mother’s funeral. I was jolted awake by the sudden solution to a problem I had contemplated for the past few days: what to give as a thank-you gift to a friend who was going to sing for my mother’s service. I wanted the gift to be something special from my mother’s own possessions.
All of a sudden I had my answer—the book Motherless Daughters, by Hope Edelman, from my mother’s library. My friend had lost her mother when she was a teenager, so I felt this gift might have a special purpose. I had given the book to my mother some years before. My mom had lost her own mother when she was only 10 years old, and it drastically changed her life (and ours) in so many ways.
Inside the front cover of the book I was happily surprised to find the note I had written to Mom when I had given her the book:
“Mom, I always felt bad about the death of your mother and wished I could do something about it or make it up to you somehow. I have often thought about how different all our lives might have been if medical science had been as advanced then as it is today. I’ve missed your mother for you, especially since I love and appreciate my own mother so much and can’t imagine what I would do without her. I heard the author of this book on TV, and it struck a responsive chord. So I ordered the book for you and hope that it can have a positive, healing effect, not just a sad one. I love you! Star.”
Then I flipped through the pages to make sure there were no slips of paper or bookmarks left behind. Toward the back of the book I discovered an unsealed envelope with a letter in it dated 2000, addressed to me.
“Dear Star,” it said. “Today I was looking at the book that you sent to me and reread the note you wrote. It was such a thoughtful thing to do. The book was interesting, informative, and sad, and I have to admit that your note was as therapeutic and reassuring as the book was. But, my dear daughter, you don’t have to feel sad for me. People helped me along the way, and life was not nearly as difficult for me as it was for a lot of other people. I don’t feel sad for myself, and I wish you weren’t sad for me, but I love you for it. It makes me feel validated to have someone care this much. It’s just like you.”
The letter continued. “The biggest reason I wish I hadn’t lost my mother is that I wish she could have helped me to be a better mother, to learn that holding and spending more time with my children was not shirking my housework or being lazy. I’ve had lots of happiness in my life, but I can’t think of anything that tops having you. You have filled a lot of spaces for me. So be glad, my sweet girl, and know that I have not continued to grieve the loss of a mother; rather, I have tried hard to do what I could to be a mother to you. You must not assume the responsibility of making up the loss. I love you. Always, Mom.”
I sat alone in the cold, empty study, completely overwhelmed. Why had the thought of this particular book suddenly struck me? Why had my mother never mailed this letter? Could it be that she had “forgotten” to do so because God, in His great mercy and compassion, knew that 13 years later I would need this loving message of comfort from her (and Him) on this very morning?
I wouldn’t be surprised if that was indeed the case.