For some, Mother’s Day comes full of rich memories and wonderfully cherished moments. For others, it arrives with something far less meaningful and far more painful. However it comes, we all have a Mother. And the nature of our relationship with our Mother’s varies immensely. Regardless of the nature or state of it, there is within each of us a deeply inherent need to have a loving, nurturing mother. Such a need is both deep and unshakable.
This Mother’s Day article outlines the relationship I had with my Mother. It does so in a letter that was written at the death of my Mother in October of 2007 and subsequently read at her funeral. The intent of this letter is to help those who have a great Mom to more richly celebrate their Mother’s. For those who did not, it outlines what we can give to others even though those things may have never been given to us. Wishing Mom’s everywhere a rich and wonderful Mother’s Day:
I realize that on days like Mother’s Day people tend to wax nostalgic, venerating those Mom’s among us who have passed. It is, I suppose, a way to express both our deep respect and enduring gratitude, while somehow holding you a bit closer in heart and mind since we can no longer hold you in our arms.
Mom, you are missed more than the reach of words and the span of syntax can hope to explain. Yet if it were our choice, if your three boys had the power and authority to choose, even then we would not wish you here for you are truly home in a truly perfect and inexplicable way.
Mom, your voice here is now muted, heard only in our hearts, our memories, and throughout the grand halls of heaven. Even so, we still hear it. And when it fades in the frequently stifling noise of life, we play it over in our minds so as not to forget it. Your wisdom now arises from the many footprints you left across the landscape of our lives, examples that speak life and truth and love and ceaseless hope into both the barren places, as well as those places wonderful and lush that we walk through daily. Your touch is lost to us, those simple hugs from a simple woman who not only knew how to love, but how to express it in a way that made each moment warm and safe. It is one thing to be loved. It is quite another to know that you are loved. We knew. And now standing so many years removed from your passing, we still know.
But Mom, in the balance we have gained infinitely more. You left a legacy in our lives; a robust legacy that embodies integrity, honesty and tenacity. A brave legacy that boldly, even brashly believes that God always provides, always cares, always knows and is an ever-present source from which every need will always be met. You helped us understand that life ebbs and flows, sometimes magically and sometimes cruelly. You showed us that life at times invites us to a grand dance, and at other times it seems to slam us to the dance floor leaving us cringing and bleeding. Life pours into us, and then it draws out of us. The sun at times warms us and then the hail pelts us. In whatever form it takes, you taught us that God always prevails, that there is always good, that it will always, always work out. And it always did.
You left us an unrelenting understanding that life is more than some daily routine, or the achievement of tasks either great or small. Life is about living well, living with respect, living in a manner that adds rather than detracts. It is not about pretending things are well or being Pollyannaish. You taught us that life is about understanding that things will not always be fair nor will life necessarily be just, but in the hands of God it will always present us with opportunities to learn about ourselves, to grow and to add something to those around us.
Mom, all of these lessons came packaged in simple things like iced tea on sweltering summer days and hot chocolate on frigid winter nights. It was bedtime prayers that started “now I lay me down to sleep . . .” It was endless lunches packed for school, dimes tucked in lunch boxes for white milk during the week and chocolate milk on Friday’s. It was planting flowers in Spring’s sweet soils, and canning fruit when Fall generously yielded up the bounty born of those soils. It was wrapping us thick in mounds of coats and lengthy scarves when winter drew nature to sleep, and vacuuming the pool when the glory of summer ran and skipped through our days. It was summed up in a tiny plaque that still hangs in the kitchen which reads, “Bless this house oh Lord we pray, make it safe by night and day.” Such was your life.
It was being home when the street lights came on, carrying the laundry up the stairs, and not hitting our brothers. It was your voice calmly and yet quite firmly saying, “quit teasing the dog.” “This didn’t get broken by itself.” “Did you call your grandmother?” “If your friends jumped off a cliff would you follow them?” “Would you please flush the toilet?” “Did you get your homework done?” “Please put your clothes in the dirty clothes hamper.” “Don’t listen to your brother.” “Who left the lights on?” “Please pick up your room.” “Were you born in a barn?” “I didn’t raise you kids to be like this!” “Who tipped over the Christmas tree?” And, “it didn’t walk away by itself.”
Underlying it all, being spoken with undeniable clarity there were these messages. “I love you.” “You can achieve anything you want with your life.” “You kids are God’s gift to me.” “You’re the best kids in the world.” “I don’t deserve you boys.” “I’m praying for you.” “How can I help you?” “How are you doing?” “Do you need anything?” “I’m so proud of you boys.” It was all of those things, and so much more.
Mom, you were about the stuff of building the lives of three boys and taking care of a husband who was, at those rather impetuous times, a boy himself. It was really never about you. We tried to make it about you so many times, but you always politely declined. Rather, it was a selfless investment, pouring your life, your energies and fiber of your being into three boys who really had no clue what you were doing until they themselves were adults. Even today we are unable to fully fathom the depth of your sacrifices. While I would wish to say otherwise, I doubt that we will ever understand them fully.
We again commit to you on this Mother’s Day that we will strive to selflessly pour into the lives of others that which you so graciously poured into our lives. We know that any such efforts on our parts will pale indeed to the way in which you poured yourself into our lives. Know that we are committed to drawing from the innumerable footprints that you left, the lessons taught and lived, and the insights imparted. We will draw from the vast storehouse of memories packed tight with words, mental pictures, ceaseless emotions and warm thoughts. And we will live that out Mom, as we have for so many years since you passed. We will bring your life to the lives of our families, the people who populate our careers, and to those we meet in the briefest passing. You will live on Mom, here as well as in the marbled halls of heaven. You will touch innumerable lives through your three boys who you loved, equipped, nurtured, guided, guarded and then launched.
One final thing Mom; we want you to know that we will live each day in anticipation of seeing you again. However, we commit that we will not let that anticipation somehow diminish the efforts and energies we invest in living life. We will not live in some sort of distracted state, focused solely on the idea of seeing you again and awaiting that moment in such a way that the present moment is squandered. Rather, we will invest our lives vigorously while holding fast to the promise of scripture that there awaits for us a grand reunion, a wild celebration of relationships restored in a creation likewise restored. In the meantime Mom, know that you are loved, that you are fondly remembered, that you live on in us and that when stories of you are told, they will be told with the greatest love and deepest admiration.
Thanks Mom. We love more than simple words could hope to convey. God bless and see you soon.
Happy Mother’s Day from Your Son’s,
Craig, Mark and Brett