I was 22 years old, working two jobs to pay for seminary. Three mornings a week, I’d rise long before the sun to pack my books in the car and drive the 101 miles to classes. Before walking out the garage door, I’d open the fridge and find a brown bag lunch sitting on the top shelf.
Maybe it’s odd for a mother to pack her grown son’s lunch, but it was how my mom knew to show she loved me. She saw me hacking my way through a treacherous, dark season of the soul, and she didn’t didn’t know what to do. More complicated, I was changing, growing, entering a world she didn’t understand or always agree with—and she didn’t know how to be present with me there (what parent does?). She could sense how I felt very alone, unmoored, experiencing the isolation of not really fitting anywhere anymore. My mom, the woman who’d always fixed and mended and helped me maneuver life, had no idea how to help.
But you know what she could do? She could wrap pizza in aluminum foil or pile Parmesan crusted chicken in Tupperware. And after hours parsing Greek participles or poring over Augustine or Daniel, I’d open my brown bag. Often, tucked next to a ham sandwich or leftover meatloaf, I’d find a little note penned in her elegant cursive. One still sits in a box in my closet, a post-it size card bordered with lavender orchids. Do you think the Apostle Paul felt understood, she wrote, or like he fit in? I love you.
My mom didn’t know what to say, or what to do. She couldn’t fix anything. But she could reach out with her tangible brown-bag love. She could say, “I see you.” I can’t think of a better gift a parent can give.This picture was my last time to be with her. But her love remains with me. This fierce mother’s love that wrote notes and packed brown bags and tried her best to see.