Keeping It Real: If I Had Known

Do you ever wish you could live a particular day all over again? Which one?

What I wouldn’t give to step back into October 17, 2016. It was Mama’s seventy-fourth birthday, and instead of our usual beach trip, we celebrated by revisiting her childhood.

If I had known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have wasted one minute checking my phone.

We attended a concert the night before, then scooted to a hotel near her hometown. Mama sprang from bed before the sun rose, excited to meet her brother for breakfast at the restaurant he once owned. We sipped coffee and reveled in the memories settled in those seasoned walls.

We then skedaddled to various stops across town to visit extended family. Mama’s cheeks flushed at sweet times recalled with those who had run the distance of days alongside her.

If I had known then what I know now, I would have lingered a little longer, staring deeply into the beauty of her smile and her dancing eyes.

Boatloads of family gathered for lunch at Mama’s favorite eatery. (Mine, too! It may lack luster, but trust me, Parker’s Barbeque is legendary!) Love and laughter erupted around that table. Mama smiled bigger with each exchange. Her face radiated utter delight. That simple gathering surpassed any costly gift I could offer.

If I had known then what I know now, I would have savored every beautifully simple conversation, every soul-nourishing burst of laughter.

As we trekked home, Mama glowed with the giddiness of a child.

I did cherish those moments, because Mama’s company is always a Sabbath to me. Her presence refreshes and strengthens. I just had no idea what lurked around life’s corner.

Have you ever had “normal” ripped right out of your day, your week, YOUR LIFE?

A few months later, I experienced the most physically agonizing season of my life, a traumatic injury I described here recently. Those first weeks, Mama stayed long hours at the hospital and then at home to help care for me. Her faithful presence persisted. That’s what mamas do.

If I had known….

Three weeks after my injury, I lay flat on my back. As the day dawned, my husband approached the bed. His bewildered eyes told me that something was terribly wrong. Utter disbelief swallowing his countenance, he struggled to speak.

“Deb, your mama is gone. She’s dead.”

The words sent shockwaves through my soul, exploding with depths of weeping and wailing foreign to my own ears. I experienced complete emotional whiplash. Reality refused to compute. Mama and I had chatted just hours earlier. She. Could. Not. Be. Dead!

The day Mama died was the most excruciating day of my life. I instantly learned that it’s on the hardest day of your living that you need your mama most.

Grief is a peculiar thing. One minute, the loss doesn’t feel real. The next minute, we can’t get it to feel un-real. We insist on trying to sanitize the sorrow. But when the ceremonies and memorials conclude, life still races forward full-throttle, and there’s nowhere to hide. Grief will not be denied. Folks say it is detrimental to hold on to grief too long. But that’s just it. I’m not holding on to grief. It keeps holding on to me! Most days, I cannot stop the tears tracing my age lines. They water dry places in my soul that ache for just one more day with Mama.

There are a whole lot of tears between heartache and healing. Some days are draining; some, drowning. But Mama imparted to me this unshakable Faith that carries me. Her unwavering Faith forged deeply into my soul and won’t let go. In fact, it’s the one thing we still share, for now.

As we gather with loved ones this holiday season, may we ask ourselves, “What if this becomes the day I would give anything to live all over again?” Let us choose to make memories that carry us when memories are all that remain. For comments or prayer, contact Dr. Lanier at