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Happy Mother's Day Mom!

Happy Mother’s Day Mom! (Photo credit: kevin dooley)

What have I given you? The mother worried at her lip. She looked around the sanitized hospital room where her four daughters and husband had gathered to celebrate Mother’s Day. What a celebration, everyone scared to breathe in case I catch cold and die. She tried to clear her mind of what she had wanted to be doing on this day and focus on what reality held for them.
Each daughter had brought a present, uniquely wrapped in their own special way, each was smiling proudly, their father standing at her bedside looking on at the women he cherished most in the world.
She looked at her husband, a man of God who kept her strong. He had provided so much over the years for them all; a strong house, food on the table, kindness, love. . . But what had she given him, what had she given their children? She stretched a bit in her bed, trying to relieve the strain on her back. Ah, yes, I’m sure I’ve passed on my bad back. Her eyes fell to the floor as the first approached with her present. The mother barely heard her daughter as she wondered about the other things she had passed on, allergies, headaches, had she passed on arthritis as well? Oh my girls, she thought, of all you have to conquer in this world, I did not want it to include my aches and pains. I wanted to give you so much more.
“Say it louder,” her husband encouraged the eldest.
“Mom, we decided the best gift we could give you this year would be to thank you.”
“Thank me?” The question was out of her lips, but hovering in her mind.
Yes,” the young woman smiled. “Open,” she poked her present that now lay in her mother’s lap.
The wrapping was yellow, the ribbon white and simple, just like her eldest. The mother smiled, and secreted her feelings as she unwrapped the present. Inside the wrapping was a box, and as she lifted the lid, a yellow balloon floated out, the eldest caught its’ ribbon and handed it to her mother.
“Joy.” The mother spoke the word that was clearly written on the balloon.
The eldest smiled. “You’ve taught me what that word means. It doesn’t mean to be happy when everything is perfect, when everything is going the way you want it to, but that no matter what is happening,” her eyes lingered on the IV bag, “you can choose to be joyful. You’ve taught me that, thank you.”
A little crease appeared momentarily between the mother’s eyebrows, but she smiled it away as she hugged her daughter and the next approached. This was her tomboy, her independent spirit, the dancer who was unafraid of the lack of music. Her daughter pushed forward her present wrapped in Sunday comics.
“What are you giving me?”
“Well, you’ll just have to open to see, won’t you?” Her daughter smiled back broadly.
The mother’s fingers were hurting a little from arthritis, but she ignored the pain as she handed off the balloon and began to carefully dissect the paper and the tape, so that they could all enjoy the comics later. Inside was a shoe box, and inside that were words cut out of newspapers, magazines, cereal boxes, and what else she couldn’t tell. She looked at them more closely. Concentrate, focus, patience, faith, independence, confidence . . . She looked back up at her daughter, her wild child, waiting for an explanation.
“Don’t you recognize these?”
She looked down and back up, a questioning smile on her lips.
“It’s my entire childhood, Mom. Who could be more impatient? Who needed to learn how to sit still and focus? I had independence, but you taught me how to use it. Don’t you see, this is a box of all the things you encouraged in me!” Her smile was huge, and there were a few tears wetting her eyelashes, unchecked. “Thank you.” She whispered as she lowered herself to kiss her mother’s cheek.
The third approached as her sister returned to the line they had formed, a line of gratitude. Their mother cleared her throat, pretty sure now that she was not going to last much longer without crying.
“Hi, Mommie,” she smiled as she presented her own present.
The wrapping paper was yellow with white circles of various sizes. It reminded the mother of bubbles she and her girls would blow outside and watch the wind blow away. How her girls used to run to catch them, how they used to push and shove to pop them, often collapsing into a heap of laughter! Her fingers shook slightly as she untangled the springy coils of ribbon that her third daughter had lavishly put on the present. She looked up at her drama queen, her daughter who loved to dress up and play the most spectacular roles, and she saw how much she was loved.
Inside the nondescript box were pictures, silly pictures and serious pictures taken throughout their family’s life. In each of them, the mother saw the people she loved most; then she began to notice that she couldn’t find herself in any of them. She looked up and saw that her daughter was crying, wet tears streaming down her face.
“Mommie, I was looking for pictures of you, and so I searched and searched and I found some, but mostly I found pictures you took of us. I was sad until I realized this is what you have taught me. You have taught me to love does not always mean you have to be seen. But when you do love, as you have loved, people see you. Thank you.”
Her youngest now stepped forward, and smiled shakily. This was her baby, the late bloomer who had finally come into her own, now possessing a confidence she had always struggled with before. She handed her mother a lovely yellow rose. “What you have given me anyone can see by looking. You gave me your eyes. I hope that I can learn to use them as you have, to see people who are hurting, who need love, someone to care for them, and that I can do as you have done.” She smiled and hugged her mother as she could say no more, closing her pretty green eyes tightly and letting the tears fall to her mother’s pillow.
The mother didn’t know what to say. It seemed too much, had she really been able to give her daughters all of that? She looked at her husband, the man she admired, the man she loved. He stepped to her and bent close, “We have some amazing daughters, don’t we?”
“We sure do,” she wiped at her eyes, with a tissue.
“Thank you for sharing them with me.”
“Well, I couldn’t have had them without you,” she laughed.
He smiled and kissed her. “I’m glad you didn’t try.”
The rest of the day was beautiful, and she didn’t seem to notice the blank white walls. The window’s shade was pulled up and the sun streamed in. As her family surrounded her, the mother, the wife, the teacher forgot she was in a hospital and thanked God for all that He had given to her