A Tribute to My Mom on Her Birthday

Today is my mom’s 70th birthday. Not that she would have wanted us to celebrate her birthday. That’s not really a big part of our culture. In the Vietnamese culture we don’t usually celebrate birthdays. We actually celebrate the memorial of someone’s death more than we celebrate birthdays. I used to think that was weird, but I’ve come to appreciate the beauty of reflecting on the past and the impact of a person's life.

I think last year was one of the first times that my mom celebrated her birthday. She turned 69 and it was four months before her death. She was bedridden and sick. She couldn’t get out of bed or communicate well, but she still had her mind. 

She cried when we gave her a birthday cake. I think she was happy that day. At least as happy as one can be when you’re sick and facing death. She endured many painful seasons and challenges in life, but on that day she knew she was loved and cared for. What more can you ask for on your birthday?

I have so few memories of my mom being happy. I wish I had more. There’s so many pictures of her beautiful smile when she was young and full of life. But I didn’t get to see many of those smiles personally. By the time I grew out of my self-centeredness and was old enough to notice her, life had taken away her smile.  

Her nickname was Hong, which is Vietnamese for “Rose.” I can’t think of a better metaphor for my mom. Strikingly beautiful. Unique and independent. But watch out for those thorns.

She had a tough life. But she was a tougher woman. She and Sinatra did life their way. She overcame pain, obstacles and hardship and made something of herself. Compassionate. Generous. Beautiful. Courageous. Tenacious. Strong. She was one-of-a-kind. 

A Birthday Letter to My Mom:

Dear Mom,

Happy Birthday. I love you and desperately miss you. I can’t think about you without crying. I’m sorry that I didn’t have more time with you. I’m sorry for the times I was impatient with you when you were living with us. I want you to know that you continue to inspire me to live my life well and to overcome my obstacles. I need more of your strength and tenacity.

Thank you for being open to the Gospel in your last days. You showed me that it’s never too late to change and turn to God. In finding forgiveness from God it helped you find healing from your own past and to begin to forgive others.

I also want to thank you for letting Kerry and I take care of you when you got sick. I know that was the last thing you (and us) wanted. But it was part of God’s plan. I needed to learn how to let go of my resentment so I could show you love again. And you needed to learn how to receive love from others. God forced our hands and brought us together. It was a difficult year-and-a-half. But God used that time to change my heart, and I believe yours too.

Mom, I know that you are sitting there in glory next to Jesus. I anticipate the day I see you again so you can introduce me to our Lord. I can’t wait until the day when He “makes all things new.” Happy Birthday. With all my love.
Your youngest son,

“For I know that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)

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