For the last three decades, my parents have had the same phone number. I was eleven years old when we moved into our country home, a few miles outside Shamrock, TX, and were given that number. This month there’ll be forty-four candles on my birthday cake. For thirty-three years, anytime I needed to call home, I knew what ten digits to dial. A few days ago my dad informed me that they were disconnecting their land line. Everyone has cell phones, now, right, so who needs it? Perhaps a phone number seems an odd thing to get sentimental about, but I can’t help myself. You see, if that number, and the phone connected to it, could speak, they would tell my life’s story.

That was the number I called to tell my mom that, while driving to school, I hit a patch of ice in my Ford Ranger. I lost control when it started spinning downhill. The next thing I remember was crawling out of the passenger side window, as the pickup lay on its side in the snow-covered bar ditch. I ran to our neighbor’s home and dialed those ten digits. And, of course, I spent the first five minutes of the conversation assuring mom that I was all in one piece.

That was the number I called, many years later, through tears of joy, to congratulate my mom and dad on being grandparents to a healthy baby girl, and two years later, to a strong baby boy. And on two other occasions, I dialed those ten digits, through a different rain of tears, to tell them that something had gone terribly wrong, that my wife had started bleeding, that our babies’ lives had ended almost as soon as they began.

That was the number I called, after yet more years had passed, to let my parents know that my marriage of sixteen years was dying, that I had delivered the death blow, and that I was dying, if not already dead, on the inside. And those were the ten digits I dialed countless time in the years following, to hear my mom say that she and dad never ceased praying for me, that they loved me, that Jesus would get me through these dark times.

That was the number I called, after still more years, to tell them that Christ had brought Stacy into my life. She had called that number, too, when we both were teenagers, to ask me if I’d go with her to the Sweetheart Banquet that year. I said yes, and two shy young people went on a date in February of 1987, little knowing that it would be twenty-nine years until our second date—a date that would set in motion a love that is now shared as husband and wife.

That was the number I called to check in, to cry, to laugh, to ask for advice, to listen, to pray. It was that number that connected me, anytime and in any place, to two people who have always been there for me, whom I love, honor, and strive (and miserably fail) to emulate. My mom and dad are truly gifts from God to me. Without them, without their unconditional love and support, I would have been an orphan to hope in this world, a child without light, wandering lost in the blackness of grief. They have protected me, taught me, journeyed through life with me, as only parents can.

It will be Mother’s Day this weekend. I will call home. And, yes, it will be different not dialing those same ten numbers I’ve dialed the last thirty-three years. But the voice on the other end of the line will be the same. It will be voice of the one who has embodied for me, in this life, what love is, and what love does.