I was ready for church and I wanted to see if my mom was ready. She wasn't in her room, so I wandered around our house looking for her. Breakfast was made and sitting out - Sundays were the only days mom was responsible for breakfast, and it was always something good like coffee cake.
I saw her sitting by her desk, sniffling. I fell quiet. She was writing out a check, wearing her standard Sunday jewelry - a charm bracelet with a charm for each one of us ten kids. It tinkled and sniffled more as I edged closer. She was crying.
She ripped the check off the book and set it down on the desk like it was too hot to hold. And then she felt my eyes watching her and she turned. The first check I write, she told me, is for God. For offering. The first check is the tithe.
I remember the amount - not worth mentioning unless you want my LCMS rant - and today, I can connect that moment at the desk with the times we kids were running around with candles and eating ice cream from the freezer. It was perhaps the most exciting and fun part of being a kid. Our power was shut off.
Or the times we'd go shopping and march up to the cashier with a couple of carts of food. I remember the same tortured look on mom's face when she saw the total.
This sick week at my house today reminds me of every time I'd go report to her I'd thrown up, and how she'd stumble out of bed and console me and spill baking soda on the spot, cleaning it.
When she left Germany at 19, she never guessed she wouldn't return for over 30 years because the man of her dreams and the children. Each tinkling charm on that bracelet, the music of Sunday morning. The husband, children and the tithe first, and then the bills.
My mom taught me that anything worth something costs everything.