Five everyday choices I make (now that I’m older than my own mother)

by | Jun 22, 2015 | Most Popular | 16 comments

Today, I am 38 years, 7 months, and 24 days old. If you’re counting, that’s 14,116 days of breath and heart beats. Not a typical day on the calendar that traditionally calls for reflection and celebration, but still a milestone age in my book.

Because today, June 22, 2015, I am officially older than my own mother.

She was born on May 7, 1948, and died on December 28, 1986. God gave her 14,115 days on this earth, and then He called her home.

I was ten years old.

Most people use each change in decade to evaluate and calculate their response to the natural aging process. But people like me who experience loss at such an early age, tend to go by “grief math” instead. I’m sure a trained psychiatrist could have a field day with thoughts like these and may even categorize them as “unhealthy.” But I would have to respectfully disagree.

Because I experienced the death of a loved one as a child, God has used that to make me the woman that I am today – a woman who has experienced Romans 8:28 firsthand and who knows it to be true. (”And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”).

This morning I woke up with such a grateful heart. My God has given me so much since that awful day when I lost my mommy. He’s given me comfort (2 Cor. 1:3–4), joy, and peace like a river. Those may seem like the obvious blessings, but He has also given me some less obvious blessings such as perspective and resolve. Because of my loss, I constantly have an eternal perspective rather than an earthly one. And because of my perspective, I have resolve to live in a certain way.

The actual list is much longer, but I’ve narrowed it down to Five Everyday Choices I Make (now that I’m older than my own mother):

1. I never lie about my age.

My husband often teases me that I’m “almost forty.” I pretend to be offended and ask him what it feels like to be “almost fifty” (he’s only 44), but the truth is, I feel so blessed to be the age that I am. I know that some people truly dread the change from one decade to the next, but no matter how old I get, I want to embrace every single year. When people bemoan their age, I feel like it is a slap in the face to those who never had the gift of growing old. I also feel like it is an offense to God who is the giver of life. Life – and therefore age – is a blessing. Why lie about, dread or belittle the years when every single day that you are alive is a reflection of God’s favor?

2. I never refuse to be in photos.

The month before my mother died, we celebrated Thanksgiving at my aunt and uncle’s house in Orange, Texas. When they learned of her death the following month, they immediately had everyone’s film developed (remember life before digital photos?) and discovered that my mother did not appear in a single photo from that get-together. If you’ve ever had someone close to you die, you know that this is not a good thing. No matter how many photos you have of someone you love after they pass away, you know that you will always wish you had just one more. For this reason, I don’t care how fat or wrinkled I become, I will always be in pictures. It has zero to do with vanity and everything to do with the person behind the camera. One day when I’m gone, they might just wish for one more photo of me, and so I give it to them now because I know they may need it later.

3. I go on vacations.

While photos may document memories, vacations create them. Every sense you have seems on high alert when you’re away from home on an exciting adventure. I remember seeing the Passion Play, sleeping in our pop-up camper, snow skiing in Colorado, and climbing the rope ladders at Sesame Place in Dallas. The summer before my mother died, we went to Disney World, and I can still remember so many details from that trip even though I’ve been several times since. It’s easy for me to talk myself out of vacations – too much money, too much work, it’s a luxury we don’t deserve, etc. – but then I think of the potential memories that I’ll make with the people I love the most, and I realize just how important it is. You may choose to put off vacations until the timing is just right. But, if you knew this opportunity for adventure would be your last, would it change your decision?

4. I do not put my calling on hold.

As much as I love my family, I also know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has a purpose for my life in addition to my wife/mom roles. He gave me the talent, the education, the experiences and the calling to be a writer, and that may manifest itself differently in my life than it does in someone else’s. My goal is to not sacrifice one calling for the other, but rather to listen to Him intimately for day-by-day, moment-by-moment discernment on how to fulfill my calling(s) in practical ways that honor Him.

5. I never refuse a hug, a kiss or a cuddle.

My children are at the ages where they fight each other for the prime position on my lap. I’ll be honest, sometimes it’s suffocating. I’ll sit on the couch to watch TV, immediately become buried under a blanket of children and suddenly all I want is AIR! But then I remember how much a mother’s lap means to her children. And I remember what it’s like to sit on the couch when you don’t have a mother’s lap nearby. And so I pretend that I’m doing my children a favor by letting them climb all over me, smother me with kisses or put off bedtime for just one (or five) more hugs. But really, I’m doing it for me as well.


I am curious if anyone else is older than your own mother. How does it affect the way you live? Your walk with the Lord? Your everyday choices and your major decisions?


  1. Cheryl Weavers Stacey

    Emily, I went to school with your mother. Your beautiful words have touched me and I praise our Lord for gifting you with His power to touch lives through your thoughtful articles.

    • Emily E. Ryan

      Thanks so much for your words, Cheryl! I love hearing from people who knew her!

  2. Brenda Aigner

    Emily, Your column touched me for several reasons. I was in Patsy Hogg’s Sunday School class at Sagemont when your mom died. We were close in age and I had young children…I remember crying as I was helping take a meal to your house.

    Also I am older than both my grandmothers. One died when I was an infant and all I have of her are a few pictures and some baby garments that she started making for me. for this reason I delight in sewing for my grandchildren, praying for them as I stitch.

    My other grandmother died about a month before my wedding. I treasure her impromptu picnics, her love of flowers, the scent of pine trees, loyalty to family. There is so much more about her that I would like to know. The Sunday after her death my grandfather handed me her keys and told me that she always took some children from the trailer park they owned to church and would I do it since they would be expecting to go. She meant something to her community also. I treasure the picture of her as a little girl standing by her brother in an East Texas school picture with her elbow on his shoulder grinning a crooked grin that I remember seeing on her as an adult.

    All of these memories make me want to participate in the life that God has given me and be present and active in the lives of those around me. I think of the Amy Grant song that starts out, Up in the attic, down on my knees, letters and photographs…

    Thanks for sharing your heart. It was a great reminder.

    • Gloria Putnam-Kilgore

      This is one of the most precious, moving articles I have ever read or heard! I am 81 and both of my grandmothers were deceased before I was old enough to know them, as well as one grandfather. I had a few years with my father’s dad that I cherish until this day. I have no earthly treasures of any of them, but do have a few pictures, but my joy is in knowing I am going to live with them forever in heaven, and trust me….that is certainly my main focus now. However, I am still very active in the work of the Lord, having a burden for the lost and travailing in prayer for them.
      Gloria Putnam-Kilgore

      • Emily E. Ryan

        Amen, Gloria! Bless you for still being used by God at 81! That’s awesome!

    • Emily E. Ryan

      Brenda, that is so sweet! I especially love the part about how your grandmother took those children to church! What a sweet lady. And I haven’t heard that Amy Grant song. It sounds like one I need to look up! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Sharon Rigsby

    Emily, this was so special to read. My Mother was only 67 when passed away. I was 35. It was totally unexpected, but we did get to see her in the hospital. Her last words to me were, “I love you. ” Even though it has been 36 years ago, I still really miss her. She taught me so much. I still have some violets and day lilies in my garden from her garden.

    • Emily E. Ryan

      You’re never too old to miss and need your mommy! I love that you still have her flowers!

  4. Rose

    Emily, this is one of the sweetest, sweetest articles I have ever read. I cried through the whole thing. Thanks for sharing those five choices you make. Number 2 is the one I struggle with, but for the sake of loving others, I almost never refuse anyone anyway.:)

    • Emily E. Ryan

      Thank you, Rose. Sorry I made you cry! 🙂

  5. Natalie

    This was very inspiring to read. My grandmother died when my mom was 13, and now that I’m raising a daughter I’m realizing that there are some things about being a wife/mom/lady that my mom never taught me-because her mom wasn’t there to teach her.

    • Emily E. Ryan

      I can understand. I am so thankful that my father remarried and blessed me with a “second mom.” She has filled so many voids in our lives and I don’t know what I’d do without her. I have tried to learn from the best of both of my moms as I’ve tackled this whole motherhood thing myself. We need the wisdom of older women to make it!

  6. Stephanie @ Crayon Marks and Tiger Stripes

    Oh Emily, thank you for sharing your heart!! My husband struggles with the “grief math” too. He lost his mom at the age of 52 and we lost his dad 2 years ago at the age of 62. My husband is 38 years old and has lost both of his parents. It’s a struggle as we raise our children and we feel that void that they will never know our children. It’s hard.

    I feel as you do about age. Embrace it! I just turned 30 and I am the only one of my friends that isn’t like “29 forever!!” I am so thrilled to be 30! Each year is a gift!

    Your photos in this post are beautiful. You have such a beautiful heart!!!! Thank you for sharing this!

    • Emily E. Ryan

      Thanks Steph! The older I get, the more friends I have who have lost one or both parents. It’s never easy at any age.

      I also loved turning 30! It was one of the best years ever! And if what I’ve heard about your 40’s and 50’s is true, I can’t wait for them either! Hugs!

  7. Brenda L Saldana

    Today I received the Our best articles of 2015 and it was certainly the encouragement that I missed! Talk about a blessing that keeps going and going. I agree with your five everyday choices. The vacation one I shared with my husband, who is in the vacation industry and I told him he had to share your story!

    • Emily E. Ryan

      Thank you Brenda! Since I wrote this, we’ve been to Israel and to Disney World – so many wonderful memories with my husband and my children! Blessings!


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