We must have made a dismal picture, my brothers and I, that summer’s day in 1977, for it was the day that our mother stepped from this earth into eternity. With all the fear of my thirteen–nearly fourteen–years, I fled from her room just seconds from her last gasp. As the intensity of my pain mounted, I could bear it no more and found myself running down a cold, sterile corridor, flying past the stark waiting room to face the grayness of an unusual June sky. My dad, showing what felt to me a rare compassion, followed with the dreaded news, and as I threw myself into the warmth of his arms, the heavens let forth their tears and wept.
Today, as we celebrate the role of mother, I cannot help but consider the kind and loving soul that shaped my younger self. Within her gaze, I truly understood what it meant to know love. Her open laughter over my antics and childish statements cast a net of acceptance around my heart, while her firm hand of discipline built a barrier of safety which melded me deeply into foundations of trust and security. With her alone did I know the loving sanctuary of true childhood.
The summer of my ninth birthday, I recall her gathering her children to the kitchen table of our Eddyville home. With gentleness, she shared her diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis and what it meant to her and changes we could expect to encounter. Yet with all the ignorance of a child, I simply nodded my understanding…while not understanding at all.
Over the next few years, I watched my beloved, beautiful mother slowly fading away. Her hands began to jitter and lack strength, and her steps began to falter. Although not fully grasping the totality of where this would lead, I became unquestionably familiar with insecurity and fear as I watched her move from a walker to a wheelchair to a hospital bed placed prominently in our living room. The pinions of any hope gave way when my step-father transferred her to a care center, and we three children moved to live with our dad.
Visiting this bedridden woman, who could no longer speak and needed others to care for her most basic needs, became part of our bi-weekly, and then weekly, routine–complements of our grandparents. Yet in her presence, I no longer felt the safety and understanding which had once bound my heart so sweetly. It felt strange and, quite frankly, I did not want these visits–I did not want this life.
But then, those beautiful blue eyes would rest on me, and I could almost tangibly feel her sorrow and pain as she gazed on the face of a daughter she could no longer reach out and touch, and for one moment my heart would squeeze with the realization that the love she held for me stood unchangeable.
Stands unchangeable. For in eternity–in the presence of God–pure, sacrificial love never falters nor fails. It waits stalwartly. And it bears witness to the mother I have become, and am yet to be.
I may have made a rather dismal picture that June day–a tear-streaked, motherless girl, wanting desperately to run, but with no place to go until finally finding refuge in the arms of a distant father. Yet over time I have found limitless shelter in the arms of the Most High. Unerringly patient, His love has filled me to abundance, and through His immeasurable love He has guided me to become a mom that my own precious mother would smile upon.
Interestingly, I find that the physical weaknesses which plague me daily compel me to consider the greatest gift a mother can give her child–the same gift my mother gave me, even at her weakest. It’s not the physical tangibles that our culture extols on this Mother’s Day–housework, errands, laundry, cooking, hostessing, chauffeuring, etc., etc.–things at which I fail miserably. No. The gift which each child will treasure for time immemorial is the accepting, encouraging, disciplining love springing forth from the heart of a mother.
The rarest, most precious of gifts.
Thus, while my mom could not be just like any mother, she could be that forever link of love which deeply instilled in my heart and my mind–indeed my very innermost being–the knowledge of an eternal, life-giving love–a love filled to overflowing with acceptance and encouragement, beckoning my soul to find refuge in God’s almighty truth and limitless forgiveness. And for these richest of reasons, I find my heart bound deeply with a cord of understanding on this Mother’s Day to my very own precious Not-Just-Any-Mother.
Thank you, Mom.
“Her children rise up and call her blessed…” (Proverbs 31:28a).