Last year I wrote one of my saddest blogs ever, asking for your prayers for Sarah, the 8-month-old daughter of my friends and clergy colleagues who was dying of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA).
This past Tuesday at Max & Erma’s, there was a fund-raiser for Families of SMA. The restaurant would donate 20 percent of the price of one’s meal to the organization. I invited my friend, Jodie, to meet me there for dinner. We usually eat together about once a month to catch up, and the bonus was we’d be helping a good cause.
As we were finishing our meal, Heather came to our table. “I heard you were here. I just wanted to thank you for coming,” she said as we hugged.
I turned to introduce her to Jodie. “This is Sarah’s mom,” I said. I immediately wondered if I had been insensitive – was the introduction inappropriate? And then I knew it would be more insensitive of me not to introduce Heather as Sarah’s mother. No matter what, for ever and always, Heather is Sarah’s mom. It’s important and proper and essential to acknowledge and celebrate that fact. To do otherwise would be to minimize and dishonor the memory of a little girl who, in her brief life, taught other people so many things about love and faith and hope and healing and ladybugs and courage and community and reaching out.
Heather didn’t get to be a mom for long – and yet, she was a mom for long enough: long enough to nurture Sarah and name Sarah and cuddle Sarah and, at the right moment, to let Sarah go. She did all those things moms do: birthing and raising and feeding and praising and hugging and letting go when the time comes. But you know something, even in the middle of the most profound loss imaginable – and I can’t imagine it – those mothering moments don’t end. Love never ends. Heather is still a mom. Heather is still Sarah’s mom. In those brief moments between a hello hug and a goodbye wave, I learned a valuable, unforgettable lesson. I won’t ever hesitate to introduce Heather as Sarah’s mom – or her father, Mike, as Sarah’s dad. It is important and proper and essential and quite appropriate.
Isn’t it wonderful – Sarah is still teaching us.