It’s May again, my favorite month. Filled with birthdays, spring flowers blooming, cornfields awash in new life, turning the countryside in our state a most delicious green.
May is also my least favorite month. Filled with wrenching separations, fading lilac blossoms and tulip petals blowing in the wind, not to be seen for 12 more long months.
May, for me, is a tangled mess of memories.
Some of them very good.
Some of them very, very bad.
Some of them lovely enough to take my breath away.
The good memories are so very good.
May 11, my father’s birthday, was a day of celebration and rejoicing at our house. Dad acted like a kid on every birthday, demanding the biggest piece of cake and an extra scoop of ice cream. Oohing and aahing over the same presents we gave him every year–Aqua Velva aftershave and Kentucky Club pipe tobacoo–as if they were the most marvelous gifts in the world. Dad had a way of making his children feel very, very good.
Our son, our firstborn child, came into this world on May 23, 1982. I can still close my eyes and see his tiny perfection the first time I held him. A head full of dark hair, a head round as a pumpkin, wide-set eyes, a long upper lip just like my father’s, his rosebud mouth, and his daddy’s jawline and chin. I can see my husband’s smiling face and feel the joy we shared was good. So very good.
But the bad memories are so bad. So very, very bad.
Every May 11 when we celebrated Dad’s birthday we could see that the multiple sclerosis he’d been diagnosed with at age 29 had taken a little more of him away. His speech a little more slurred. His hands a little more shaky and weak. As the years wen’t by, we opened his gifts for him and spooned cake and ice cream into his mouth. For the last 14 years of his life, we celebrated his birthday in the nursing home where he was the youngest resident and had been there the longest. As we grew older and realized what Dad had lost, and what had been taken away from us, too, we grieved for his diminished life as we celebrated the day of his birth.
Every May 23 I relive the swiftly unfolding events of the day our son was born. The doctor saying he wanted to transfer our baby to a regional hospital. The doctor at the regional hospital calling to explain a life-threatening diagnosis and recommending life flight for surgery at a university hospital. The call from the surgeon, before our baby’s birth day was over, saying that our little boy was doing well. And each year, while we celebrate with our son and his family, a tiny piece of my mother’s heart grieves for the physical pain he endured alone and for the emotional pain all of us experienced during those hard days.
The loveliness of May is lovely beyond words, elusive and incomplete in this present world. For me, May hints at the loveliness of the world yet to come. We glimpse that future loveliness as our family celebrates the goodness of life each May, as we grieve brokenness in the lives of those we love and still cling to God’s promises, as we watch new life spring up green and growing, and as we see God, year by year, weaving the good and the bad into the stories of our lives until all our stories meet, and He weaves us together in anticipation of the day yet to come when…
…he will wipe away every tear from our eyes;
and there will no longer be any death;
there will no longer be any mourning, or crying or pain
because the first things have passed away…
and the lilacs will never fade,
the tulips will never lose their petals,
our children and our parents will be strong and whole,
and we will be like Christ because we will see Him just as He is…
…as lovely as May, forever and always. Amen.