Sarah’s Top 10: Birthday Best for my Mom

Guess what today is!…

That’s right.  Memorial Day, if you’re in the United States.

There’s a lot, lot more.  But, you know what?  None of it is as important as this:

Today is my mom’s birthday.  My extraordinary, beautiful, my one and only, mother.

I’d like to give her a little tribute today.

Actually, I should be giving her a huge tribute.  I should be giving her the stars and the sun and the moon, because it’s also the month of Mother’s Day, and because it’s the month of Mary, Jesus’ mother, Mother of Heaven and Earth.   I should be giving her the universe, because she gave me my universe.  She gave me so much more than I could ever have imagined.  I’m just beginning to understand the depth of it, now, after 28 years of my own life, and I know I’ll never reach the end of the story of that creation.  I’ll most likely never realize the true significance of what it means to be a mother, or to give life to someone.

But this is about you, Mom.  This is your story, and this is your magnificence we’re celebrating today.

And o, do we have a lot to celebrate about my mom!

Here, I’d like to share with you the best of my mother.  I invite you to join in celebrating her with me: Sarah Elizabeth Timp Henkel, my mother!

(This is so cheesy, but…hey, I think I also got a little bit of that from my mom.  This is the top 10 most unforgettable and unique, the reasons why I am most thrilled to be able to call my mom “mom.”)

#1  Her faith

My mom’s faith is simply incomparable.  Just to watch it is better than any blockbuster film I’ve seen in, what, my entire life?  Her sense of commitment to Christ, to what she knows is real.  It’s as solid as it gets.  It is the bedrock I know she founds herself on, and it’s the source of stability for her family, too.  If she could stand next to Peter at the moment that Jesus offers him the future of the Church, and the keys to heaven?  We would be facing my mom at the pearly gates, for sure.

#2  Size doesn’t matter.

My mom may be petite, but her spirit is anything but.  My mom is fierce, and she’s always had an indomitable force that can’t be contained.  She busts out, breaks out, lives it out, calls you out, and at the end of the day you will be burnt out trying to keep up with my mom!  Don’t mess.

#3  Her tough love. 

I suppose this may be said of many moms, but o.  My mom has an extra special, unforgettable way of showing her love.  She taught middle school for nearly 30 years, and I know she learned this tough love along the journey through many classrooms.  And I am so grateful, because I don’t think I had any teacher nearly as effective as my mom’s tough love.  I’m sure many of you can relate…

#4  Her listening.

Do I even need to explain this one?  How many times have I called my mom, and every time she’s been there with nothing but ears, nothing but time, nothing but love – unless she’s sweating through a workout or outside trying to rake leaves.  She doesn’t miss a beat, doesn’t miss a phone call, doesn’t miss a chance to show her love through accepting and open ears.  Thanks for this, mom!

#5  Her openness and depth. 

My mom may not agree with me on o so many things (please, whatever you do, don’t mention global warming to my mom, or greenhouse gases, especially methane), but she has this capacity to enter into a conversation that will sweep you off your feet and plunge you into the depths of life, without you even realizing it.  It’s like that waterslide at an amusement park where you’re standing over the trapdoor, one moment entirely safe and sturdy on your feet, and then the floor opens and you are SHOOTING down into mystery.  Whatever the topic, if you want to really engage yourself intellectually and get a ripe challenge?  Start talking to my mom.  I’m talking social justice issues, poverty, God’s goodness, ice hockey, women’s roles in the Church, ecospirituality, why the Devil Rays are still around … you know, the real nitty gritty about life.

#6  Her strength and health.

My mom is a rock star.  She does yoga with me, she ran for, what, 20 plus years, she bikes all over town, she canoes, and she kick boxes and does cardio blast and an assortment of YouTube workout videos that’s more varied that what I do.  O, and I haven’t even told you about her garden!  She doesn’t miss a day of working out, whatever it is.  It sounds silly, but it’s a surprisingly important aspect of life.  Her dedication to her health is inspiring not just to me, but to just about everyone she meets.  Keep it up, mom: and here’s to many, many more May 28ths because of your practices!

#7  Her vocabulary.

I couldn’t tell you the number of times my mom has challenged someone around her to step up their lexicon, nor could I count the number of new words she’s taught me over the years.  This, too, comes from her years as a language arts and reading teacher, and the spillover has had wonderful effects.  Thanks to her, I’ve stopped trying to get away with horrifically banal and vapid words like “good” or “nice” (sometimes under threat of death), and my life is endlessly enriched because of it.  (By the way, “nice” is particularly offensive; whatever you do, avoid “nice” around my mom.  Just don’t.)

#8  Her…other language skills. 

I have convincing arguments on both sides of the debate as to whether I was adopted or not.  My mom’s dexterity with other languages lends credence to the “adopted” side of this argument.  I love you, Mom!  (So the jury is still out about where I really came from.)

#9  Her dependability.

Coffee every morning with just a tiny splash of milk, with prayer and then exercise.  WalMart six times a week.  Library volunteer duty on Tuesdays.  Seafood from the local market in town, Joe Patti’s, at least once a week.  Visiting my brother to help him clean, and catch dinner afterwards.  Wine at home, and a hockey or baseball game to top off the evening.  My mom’s dependability is as solid as her faith, and her sturdiness in maintaining a structure roots and strengthens me.  Thanks for this, Mom: you know I need rooting some times!  This is a gift that keeps on giving, a gift I am endlessly thankful for over your years.

#10  Her support.

Do I need to explain this one, either?  She’s a champion for the underdog, for the lost, the lonely, the downcast.  My mom has inspired me in her ways, to care for the one who doesn’t have any care.  If she were standing next to Dorothy Day, my mom would be serving the soup line just as fast as this maverick of a woman.  I’m sure they have lots to talk about when they get to heaven!  I certainly imagine the two of them really hitting it off.  My mom never stops cheering on those who need it.  You go, mom!

Here’s to you, Mom, on your birthday, and always.  I am so proud and excited to be able to say you’re my mom.  I know the Lord has done marvelous deeds in creating the sun, the rainbows, the birds and the bees and all the biodiversity that graces and fills this planet.  He’s done marvelous and magnificent deeds in creating the moon, the asteroids, the galaxies, in giving us light and heat and warmth.  He’s given us dolphins and fish innumerable, and sunsets and beaches that stretch from here to there, and all those amazing phosphorescent plankton that cover the sands at night.

But all of this fails in comparison to you, my mother.

Many, many blessings on your birthday, mom, and may all Mothers be blessed this month of May!  May we be guided and brought straight to Christ with the loving hands of our most loving and pure Mother, Momma Mary.

Happy Birthday Sarah!

Happy Birthday!

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