Mom put down the magazine she was reading and leaned back in her upholstered rocking chair. I looked up at her from where I was playing on the floor nearby. Kneeling next to her footstool, I put my head in her lap. She tousled my hair lovingly. I asked, “Tell me about how you had me.”
Always willing to retell family stories, Mom explained, “After your sister Betty was born, I kept having miscarriages. The doctor told me I’d never be able to carry another baby to full term.”
Some children would like to have the book, ‘Goodnight Moon’ read to them at bedtime 365 days of the year. I wouldn’t have minded hearing this story that many times, either. Though I was very young, I’d heard this story often. I knew what a miscarriage was and what it meant to be full term, because Mom had explained.
Prompting her to continue, I said, “But you wanted one last baby.”
Smoothing my hair, Mom answered, “Yes. One day when I was in my middle forties, I babysat your cousins; one was a toddler and the other an infant. They were so sweet! I prayed, “Lord, please allow me to have one more child.”
Smiling, I exclaimed, “And then you had me!”
“Yes. I did!” Mom sighed happily. “In the spring a few months later, I was pregnant with you. I prayed that you’d stay with me until you were full term, and that’s what you did. You came two days after Christmas that year.”
I grew up feeling like a miracle baby. Against all odds, the Lord had allowed me to survive. When I discovered how often older mothers have babies with Down Syndrome, I felt like even more of a miracle. I was in this world for a reason! But, for what reason? Shouldn’t I have come with an instruction manual?
As my mother aged, she needed more and more help. I slipped into a role that made me feel as if I had mysteriously become her mother and she, my child. I took care of her pill box, gave her a good weekly bath, hair wash, bed change and laundry. I took her to doctor appointments, discussed her health with him, called her every day and helped her with anything else she wanted.
One day Mom turned to me and said, “I’ve always wondered why I so badly wanted one last baby. Now I know why. I needed someone to take care of me in my old age.”
Maintaining a poke face, I noncommittally questioned, “You think so?” I felt grumpy about her comment. She had changed my birth story. Was my care for her the only reason for my existence? If that was the case, what was I to do when she died; curl up and die also?
I have been told that every person born into this world is assigned a job to accomplish during their lifetime. At conception our souls know what that job is, but through the distractions of life, our goal can be forgotten.
Each person in this world is like one thread in a large tapestry of Van Gogh’s Starry Night. There are many threads crowded together to form the picture. I like to hope that my thread contributes to one of the stars twinkling in the sky, or one of the warm, inviting lights in a cottage window. Being in the center of that vast expanse of tapestry (life), there is no way to know. It will be only when I step away into eternity that I will see the full picture and the part I played in it.
Looking at my life from outside of myself, I would have never thought I was a person to take on the role of caretaker. As the baby of a large family I was coddled and spoiled. I hate responsibility and avoid it as much as possible. Yet, over and over in life I have found myself doing things such as comforting surgical patients as a CNA, mothering my children, caring for Mom and a few years after that, caring for my brothers as illness and age took their toll.
I suspect that even if we forget what our task in life is, Divinely-driven circumstances channel us to do that work, but at the same time we are also given the choice to follow through…or not.