Dear Mom,

Go ahead and grab the tissues. Because even though this family of ours has always been voted Most Likely to Cry at the First Sign of a Sentimental Moment, we’ve broken even our own records in these past several weeks, and we might as well not bother holding back now.

It’s hard to pull strong words from a fragile heart, but I’ll find them, because there’s no better time than Mother’s Day to let you know I couldn’t help but notice a few things.

I’ve noticed it’s tough to be the mom of a first-born who is about to graduate and leave for college, and tough knowing this is going to change my life and the life of this family forever. But, I bet it was way harder when you were where I am, going to nursing school my senior year (and graduating at the top of your class) so you could help me get to college.

And I couldn’t help but notice how, when my kids came along, you accepted your title of “Grammy” with complete delight, and have lived up to the endearing term in every sense. You have taken seriously your role in influencing all your grandchildren in all the best things, from living true Christianity, to cooking your famous potato salad, to showing them that there’s plenty of fun to be had in life if you’re not too uptight to enjoy it.

And I’ve also noticed how there aren’t many people who can say they have always had a great relationship with their parents. But I can,because of you and Dad. It’s a rare blessing, and I’m very thankful for it.

And, Mom, that day, years ago, when we first learned of Dad’s cancer, when you said, “It’s time to live what we’ve always said we believed,” I noticed you’ve done just that. When tragedy strikes, kids will automatically look to their parents to see how to react, and follow their lead. That’s what we’ve done for all these years now, and you and Dad have always trusted God and never wavered. We’ve noticed.

And for my whole life, I’ve noticed that you’ve been an up-close and personal example of what a devoted wife looks like. You had no idea, when you walked out of the church for the first time as husband and wife, what your life would hold, but you meant what you vowed. You made Dad your calling, and taking care of him became your biggest ministry, allowing him to be the person he was to so many. We all noticed.

I remember Dad teaching so many times that the best thing that parents can do for their children is love each other. You demonstrated that for your whole marriage, especially during the 12 years of Dad’s illness, but never like these past months. Experiencing that gift of having you and Dad with us, in our house every day, gave me insight that will never leave me. The tears, sleepless nights, physical exhaustion, emotional turmoil, and total devotion: I noticed. And I also noticed how Dad, who told us all our lives how much he loved you and wrote youhundreds of letters through the years, made sure hegave you a Valentine this year, though hecould barely see to sign his name. I still marvel at the faith it took to let go of your best friend of over 42 years.

And as I’ve watched you continue to help us while you try to face your new life, the biggest thing I’ve noticed is that you, even at your weakest point, are the strongest person I have ever known. I have witnessed in you what God can do with someone who trusts Him completely. You are overcoming your hardest obstacles as you receive and display God’s grace on your life, just like Dad always did. And as Dad said in his own words, “God is faithful. He will enable. He issovereign. His timing is always right.”

I almost wrote this out as a private letter only to you, but I want people to know who you are and all you mean to us in this family. Your example is a shining light, which shines even brighter in the dark days. And I just couldn’t help but notice.

I love you, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day!