My mother called today. Calls between us these days are rather rare. We used to touch base quite regularly and over time that has changed. I’m not sure why. Life gets busy I guess. Even with this there as been a certain connection between us. We seem to always call when the other one needs it most. Unexplainable but true.
I have had what I have come to know as a rare relationship with my mother. I have discovered much later in life that many of my friends had somewhat turbulent relationships with their mothers especially during their teenage growing up years. Me, I never experienced that with my mother. I respected her. She was and is a rare jewel. She was my mother and as I grew in to adulthood she became my friend and remains as such. Through her example she taught me to love and to forgive. She also encouraged me to be me. My life was never about her. She gave me my life and then allowed me to explore it. She supported me in whatever I wanted to do.
This phone call she made got me to thinking about how much I love her and the many things she has taught me. She may not know it but she is responsible for many of the qualities I have today. My mother has not had an easy life. She has encountered many struggles. She suffered the loss of a child before my birth. I had a sister named Marcia that I never knew. There were times she talked about it with me and even though she was very much composed I could still sense the pain and loss that she still felt. She knew as she carried this child that it would not live. Any woman who has had this sense knows the trauma and heartache that this knowledge causes. It is a knowing that you try to share with others and no one quite understands or takes it serious. They chalk it up to nonsense or unwarranted worries or concerns. This makes the journey even more difficult. And yet somehow you traverse it only to have your feelings confirmed in the end. My sister lived a day. My mom wanted to make sure that she was baptized and after she was, she left this world.
I have encountered loss with losing a child but not like this. It is unimaginable to me the courage that one must have to survive this. To somehow have your conversations with God, to be angry, to sob and to let go and still somehow keep on loving and trusting. Not only did my mom suffer the loss of a child she also suffered the loss of a dream for two of her children. My oldest brothers are mentally handicapped. Something that was not evident right at birth but that became apparent as they grew. Anyone who has a child that doesn’t fit the standard of what people consider normal know the battle that one must endure. At this time children who were mentally handicapped were expected to be put in an institution. My parents refused and raised them in their home and loved them as no one else could have.
I realize how difficult this was for her. As mothers we want our children to grow up and have adventures along the way and form who they are. This would not happen with my brothers. Even though they are in their 50’s they will forever be young children. My mother must have asked why many times to God. She never shared that with me. Perhaps she didn’t, maybe she just accepted. I know in her family it would have been very difficult when her brothers and other family members had “normal children”, she did not. Still through all of this my mother remained strong and convicted.
She suffered growing up with a father who she considered to be abusive. She was the only girl and she had three brothers who were not very kind to her as well. She learned how to drive even though her father did not want her to. She became a nurse and I believe she was quite a talented one at that. Even though I obviously did not witness this I know she was because my mother cares about people. Genuinely cared and only wanted the best for them. She recently has shared stories with me of people who she looked out for and still to this day I see that their pain made an impact on her. It could not have been easy for her caring as much as she did and still she did because to do otherwise would have been like going against the grain of who she truly was.
My mom gave up something she really loved and believed in to raise her children. No one wanted to care for two boys that were handicapped. Sometimes I wonder how much of herself she had to give up but on the other hand I also wonder how much she gained in these experiences that she has had. I suspect it is a little bit of both. She lost some parts of herself and also gained some parts that she never even knew existed. My mom is quite selfless.
I have witnessed her invest in her grandchildren endlessly. She loves them effortlessly. She embraces their faults, smudges and shortcomings and sees their greatness. I had friends that my mother very easily took in and treated as her own. There was no pretense with my mother. She embraced everyone and was very good at seeing beyond the obvious to what was hidden underneath. My mother has never cared much about things, only people. Many times I would be concerned that my kids would spill paint or make a mess of something. My mother didn’t much care. I would watch her in amazement as she would patiently teach one to sew or help them to bake or work on a craft project. Messes could be cleaned up but these teaching moments, building moments wouldn’t always be there. She took the opportunity and embraced them, saw them and valued them most above everything else.
My mother had said to me before that children were really not our own. That they were on loan to us from God. That a parents job was to raise them and teach them in the best way they could. That their time with us was fleeting. I remember thinking that this was pretty profound and really I still do especially since I am a mom with a teenager that will be graduating in four years. Not only do I see the wisdom of these words I feel it as well. At some point in my adult life she also told me to do things for myself and to treat myself to things. I know this was because given the choice my mother did without and would put other people’s needs first. She saw me repeating the same patterns in my life and I think she wanted more for me and knew the best gift one gives is to honor themselves and to take care of themselves. That without this one can never be filled back up. Perhaps she thought it was too late for her and didn’t want it to be too late for me.
She also used to joke that she didn’t know where I came from. She said this because she didn’t think I was like the rest of the family. I never was offended by this I know that she meant it as a compliment. I’m not sure why she ever said this. Maybe because I challenged traditional thinking, I asked lots of questions especially about God and religion, I didn’t just accept things as they were. Looking back on things now, though I think this may be the one thing that my mother got wrong. I am very much like her. She taught me to care and look out for people especially those who could not look out for themselves. She taught me to love with an open heart and that everyone is deserving. She taught me honesty and perseverance. She taught me courageousness and to be giving. How did she teach me this? I learned it from watching her.
My mother is the most graceful and beautiful person I know. I value everything she has taught me and everything she has been to me. I only hope that I will have half the grace and beauty that she possesses. I know that my days with my mother on this earth are limited. The thought of this makes me sad and I know that when this day comes my world will be a little bit darker and smaller. I will not have only lost my mother but I will have lost my best friend, mentor and the most valuable jewel I have ever had in my life. Knowing this I am making a vow to call my mother. She knows that I love her. I’m not sure she knows what a blessing she has been to me in this life and I very much want her to know. When I call we will laugh and share our troubles, maybe even cry and I will share with her how much God has blessed me through her.
Who will you call today? Who has blessed you and loved you in such a way that they have filled you with grace and beauty? Please tell them for there can be no greater blessing then to know how one has impacted someone’s life in such a grand way. Return the blessing and call.