I find it difficult to write about my mother.
My conundrum is that she lived so simply and quietly that it’s difficult to find enough material to write. Yet on the other hand her simplicity and quietness make the stories too large, too monumental for mere words.
She held a variety of jobs through her life but she was mostly a traditional housewife; a constant presence and the foundation of our home. To put it into context, my mom did well in school, was above average academically, was encouraged to continue her education – she just chose not to.
She chose instead to marry my dad, have two fabulous children, and be famous for different types of accomplishments. To the best of my knowledge she never regretted that decision. If you knew her, you would understand.
Our house always rested in an easy harmony between meticulously clean and warmly hospitable. Under her watch, delicious meals, tasteful decor, and immaculately made beds appeared magically. Even when the time came for me to leave home, there was a part of me that didn’t really need to leave because life was so good there.
My mom avoided any kind of spotlight. She was shy and quiet and the weight of most socializing was left to my dad who embraced the role naturally. She could sing, but we couldn’t beg her to sing in front of people. She could draw, she had beautiful handwriting, and math was her friend. (Her ability to do math clashed with my inability to do math whenever she helped me with homework.) She had an easy laugh and a dry, twinkling wit that shone in her eyes.
Make no mistake: mom was quiet, but she was strong. I rarely saw her visibly angry but when she was, it was well considered and iron-clad.
I smiled to myself today as I recalled a time when she was uncharacteristically upset. She had revealed that her parents had voted for conservative candidates all their lives and she grumbled and chafed openly at the thought of anyone voting blindly without considering issues.
Mind you, I’ve had her frustrated with me too, (way) more than once. I’m sure my dad would tell you that he was occasionally on the receiving end of a strong opinion. I’m not sure if my sister ever felt mom’s ire – she was the youngest after all, and highly favoured. Right sis?
But actually, the moments of frustration were so rare that I can literally count them on the fingers of one hand.
Mom enjoyed following the Blue Jays and knew the game better than I did. She loved birds, flowers, words, and her grandchildren. She was gentle, humble, wise. She always had time to listen.
She became a friend and confidant to those who knew her: the hairdresser, the neighbour, the clerk. A Muslim woman she met in later years became one of her close friends. I have fond memories of mom sitting in the pew after church and listening pleasantly as people came to her just to chat and open their hearts to someone who cared.
My mother loved God. I always had the feeling she knew precisely who she was and understood fully how to be that person. I have no doubt the world is still feeling the continuous ripples of her love and grace.
My mother so imprinted the Deep Things on my heart that, to this day, I measure politicians, pastors, and acquaintances primarily by their gentleness and humility.
Do you see what I mean? The stories of my mom are small in one sense, yet words are not nearly enough to describe her.
first and last
Naturally my first memory of Mother’s Day involves sitting in church with my mother; I was about seven years old. This particular church had invited my father to temporarily fill in for their pastor who had passed away unexpectedly. Even my crush on the cute girl with dark hair wasn’t as memorable as what I felt that Sunday.
Through most of my childhood there were two songs that must be sung in church on Mother’s Day: When Mother Prayed, the memories of a praying mother, and Tell Mother I’ll Be There, the emotional promise of a wayward child.
On that particular Mother’s Day the congregation sang those songs while I sat fighting back deep feelings of both love and dread. After all, the songs were about my mother’s love and also a reminder that I would not have her forever. She was sitting right beside me and I wanted to hug her hard … but I didn’t because, of all things, we were in church. So all I did was sit and stoically hold back the flood of tears. To this day I can recall those childhood feelings in an instant.
Of course I did hug her many times through the coming years. At the end of her life I was able to sit alone with her and thank her; tell her she was beautiful; tell her I loved her.
When Mother’s Day rolls around each spring, I think quite a lot about her quiet beauty. There is a gentle, harmonious strength that flavours every memory of her. There is too little to write about but so much to say.
Mom, thank you for your prayers.
Yes mom, I’ll see you there.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
But let me remind you to be sensitive to the quiet sadness that may be felt by some others around you. Please don’t make your mom-celebration so loud that you trample on those who also associate loss with this special day.
In fact, there are many who struggle on Mother’s Day:
- Children whose mothers have passed away – who still deeply feel the sting of loss years later;
- Mothers who have an unhealthy or dangerous relationship with a child who is rebellious or has addiction or mental health issues;
- Children who have an unhealthy or dangerous relationship with a mother who, as an adult, has addiction or mental health issues;
- Women who want to be mothers but are not able to be. Couples for whom pregnancy is an impossible dream and even adoption is expensive or elusive;
- And perhaps most difficult of all, some moms have simply lost their children: miscarriage, accident, illness, suicide.
On Mother’s Day we will celebrate beautiful and loving mothers in our lives; we will remember with joy and pride and love. But we will do it quietly and privately as a thankful family.
Today I remember with deep gratitude the loving mothers in my life.
In memory of the ones who are gone:
my mother Eleanor, Marilyn the mother of my perfect children, and her mother Joan.
And in admiration of my wife Cheryl:
a mother whose life is full of wisdom, sacrifice, and unrelenting love.
‘I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.’ – Ephesians 1:16