Thursday, December 20, 2012

God's Christmas Gift

I was a teenager, but I remember every detail of that evening as if it were yesterday.  The family room was decorated for Christmas with garland, lights and stockings hanging on the fireplace mantle.  There was a warm fire blazing casting an amber glow over the cozy room.  I was sitting on the couch nestled under a warm blanket watching the tv show ““Eight is Enough””.   My father sat on the other end of the couch reading his paper.

The show was a staple in my life.  I watched it regularly along with “I Love Lucy”, “The Brady Bunch” and “Gilligan’s Island”.  I certainly didn’t expect this episode to shake me to the core like it did that night. 

“Eight is Enough” was a show with a blended family just like “The Brady Bunch”.  The storylines of both shows were usually funny and rarely addressed the reasons why these families were blended (with a step-parent replacing either a mother or a father).  I certainly related to these shows since my mother had died suddenly when I was just two.  Until recently, I never even knew what she died from.  She was never mentioned in my family.  There were no pictures of her anywhere.  It was as if she never existed.  I had a step-mom, but it didn’t take away the longing in my soul to know who my mom was.

Well, for some strange reason, this episode of “Eight is Enough” decided to address the emotional topic of the missing mom in the storyline.  It was a Christmas show and all the kids were busy preparing for Santa’s arrival that night.  If I recall correctly, the step-mom and one of the girls were cooking when they discovered a wrapped gift hidden in the top cupboard.  The gift was for one of the eight children, Tommy who was struggling with this Christmas without his mom.  The gift was from Tommy’s mother.  

I remember the poignant moment when Tommy’s sister explained to the step-mom that their mother used to shop for a special gift for each child throughout the year and hide the gifts until Christmas.  The girl was clearly overcome with emotion as she held her mother’s gift for Tommy.  That is the last thing I remember before I broke down into uncontrollable sobbing and made a mad dash for my bedroom where I could break down in solitude – a coping mechanism I had learned early and well.

I sat on my bed crying and praying that God would send me a gift from my mother so that I could know something, anything about her.  Just then, there was a knock on my door.  My father hesitantly cracked the door and asked if he could come in.  Over the years, no one had ever dared to disturb my solitary anguish.  For whatever reason, the philosophy of that time was to eradicate all remnants of the missing parent and ignore the emotional ramifications this might have on the children.

My father’s appearance at my door was completely astonishing to me. I firmly believe that it was God’s intercession that brought my dad to my room that night.  I didn’t know how to react, so I just blurted out, “I never knew her!” 

He came over to my bed and put his arms around me – something he had never done.  I cried and cried on his shoulder.  Through my sobs I just kept saying, “I never knew her”.  His response was simple and, as my father is a man of very few words, only one sentence.

“She was just like you.” He said as he kissed me on the forehead, got up from the bed and quietly slipped out of my room.  For a minute, I wondered if he really had been there or if it was some strange aberration that I just imagined.

I sat on my bed for a very long time after the door closed behind my dad.  His words kept echoing in my brain…"She was just like you."

 Just like me…what does that mean? 

He never elaborated and I never asked.  You see, in God’s infinite wisdom and only as God can do, he answered my prayer.  If I was just like my mom, then she would always be a part of my life.

This is what I’ve learned about my mother over the years:  She is very stubborn and extremely opinionated.  She is fiercely loyal and loves her family more than anything in the world.  She never shies away from a good argument, but is shy in social situations.  She is very spiritual.  She can be wicked at times.  She is creative.  She has a great sense of humor.  She is generous.  She’s made her share of mistakes.  She’s learned from some of her mistakes and still has a lot to learn.  She loves to write.  Her biggest fear is being forgotten.

Forty-some years ago I vowed that I would do my best to live an honorable life that would pay tribute to my mother’s legacy.  I promised that through me she would always live on; and she has. 

In loving memory of Lorraine Martha Breiner.

 Always in my heart.

 Never forgotten.