I recently spent four days with my seven siblings and my mother as we strolled down the memory lane of our childhoods and celebrated her 75th year of life. It was my mother’s only birthday request that she be surrounded by her eight children. The presence of any of our spouses, her 29 grandchildren or six great-grandchildren would only sweeten the pot. For over a year my siblings and I made plans to grant her birthday wish and came from Alaska, Texas, South Carolina and various parts of Florida to spend time with her at her rural Florida home. In the weeks prior to our arrival, my mother was planning meals, cleaning house, getting bedrooms comfy and so forth. In a phone call just days before my arrival, she told me, “I’m so excited about all of you coming I can hardly stand it. I can’t believe we are ALL going to be together and it’s not for a funeral, especially MY funeral,” she said with a giggle.
What she did not expect was the surprise party we secretly threw for her. A hoax that we were taking her to lunch for one last meal before we all headed out to our various destinations, proved to delight when the restaurant door opened. The restaurant was typically closed on that day, but the owner agreed to allow us to decorate and host this event for our mother as a private party. As my mom entered the door surrounded by raised hands and yells of “SURPRISE,” she fell to tears as she looked around the room filled with family, nearby friends, high school friends, some of her siblings and loads of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Overwhelmed she needed to take a seat (we’d made her a special one, of course) and compose herself.
It was during our time together that my family relived the timeline of our childhoods and collaborated on memories, occasions, and events throughout our lives growing up with her as our mother. We shared stories and compared remembrances. We laughed, cried and even debated on a few reminiscences. It was a full-packed four days both exhilarating and exhausting for everyone.
I’m confident this is a birthday my mother will always remember and may even be the best one she’s ever had. But this time together taught me a few things. It reminded me that it’s been over ten years since I’ve seen my baby sister. That one of my sisters has children I have never met and so forth. Yes, we stay in touch through social media and periodically talk on the phone when the situation presents itself, but I had to ask myself, why do we let our lives take over our love for others?
Is it the “out of sight, out of mind” concept? Perhaps the, “I’m just so busy” attitude? Whatever the excuse or reason we choose to allow ourselves to quantify our actions or lack thereof, I realized that although we may argue, be complete opposites or even disagree on most matters, we are still a family. Yes, like many families, there are some members that if they weren’t family, we wouldn’t like them to let alone love them. And yet we do. In fact, we’d take a bullet for them if need be. But we let miles cloud our memories and life take over the very minutes of our days we wish to retrieve.
After these past four days and as we approach Thanksgiving week, I am overflowing with gratitude. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity, despite the miles between us, to share four days of my life with my family. Four days I will never get back and wouldn’t want if I could. But more than that, I realized it is one thing to be grateful but clearly another to share the gratitude. I want my siblings to know that I personally will make more of an effort to stay connected and find time in my life for them. I will tell them I love them NOW instead of waiting until one of us may not be around to hear it.
Girl, it’s time to focus on the sparkle, on the blessings and that which you are grateful. Be thankful and share that joyous gratitude with others. It is so easy to be happy and oblivious in our contentment. We often take for granted or overlook the goodness in our lives. I encourage you to take time, no MAKE the time, to tell those in your life what they mean to you. Tell them today. I call my mother every week and I must confess, sometimes it’s from the bathroom but she is always glad to hear my voice and I am blessed that I can still pick up the phone and talk to her. I am always apprciative for that blessing when I hang up the phone after one of our conversations. But until I shared this time with her, my family and extended family, I did not really have this kind of appreciation in my whole being. I encourage you, don’t wait until a birthday, wedding or funeral to come together. You have cousins, aunts, etc. that you haven’t seen in years. Reach out. Check on them. Tell them you care and are blessed that they are in your life, make amends with those in which you have strayed. Just make the effort, celebrate life, love and family. Then, watch what happens.
© c. michelle bryant
Michelle Bryant is an entrepreneur, nationally acclaimed award-winning artist, inspirational speaker, self-published author of five books available at most online retailers, a multi-award winning, published photographer whose work is nationally used for worldwide marketing campaigns and featured on various items including but not limited to apparel. She shines her light and speaks from her heart in an encouraging and transparent manner and offers a message of hope, healing, and victory to any who encounters her or her works. You can check out her multitude of works at: www.divinelyfocused.com.