When I was growing up and life presented challenges and things did not work out quite as planned, my Dad used to always say, “It’s just a bump in the road.” Just a bump in the road was his way of saying not to get stuck there. Figure the problem out and get past it. My Dad has been gone for 13 years now and each time something unwelcome happens in my life that seems difficult to overcome, I say to myself, “it’s just a bump in the road,” to remind myself that I can survive the challenge, just figure it out.
We live in a fast paced, often self-centered life. A world full of people whose purpose in life is to figure out “What’s in it for ME?” In the generation that my parents grew up in people focused on taking care of their family, but they also were mindful to see the needs of others. I can remember neighbors coming to our home and sharing stories of hard times with my Mom. She would lend a sympathetic ear and before they went home she would go to the kitchen cupboard and fill up a bag of staples that could be used to prepare a few meals. She had a heart that kept giving until it physically gave up. People don’t do that often today. Today people focus their lives on “What’s in it for me?”
As Mother’s Day approaches I think back to that wonderful example that my Mother was to me. She had 7 children that demanded her time. She was a full-time homemaker and wife, and yet she had time for others. Her life was never about seeking what was in it for her. She found her happiness in taking care of others.
For reasons I did not understand for many years, my Dad left my Mom when I was 10 years old. He left suddenly and he took myself and one sister with him, leaving my Mom with 5 children and no way to support herself. My Dad was a good man but it took him years to realize the harm he did to our family by leaving. He spent many years being angry with my Mom. I allowed my emotions for my Mom to be focused on her shortcomings and that became the glass through which I saw my Mom for decades. It was easy to forget the person that I knew she was. It was easier to allow her to be defined to me by my Dad’s disillusionment with her.
As I grew older and got married, had children, and lived a life complete with successes and failures, I realized that my Mom was an incredible person. She did not drive when my Dad left, she had not worked for 20 years. She had five children to feed and clothe and keep a roof over their head. She found a job at a factory and she worked hard. She feel into depression and suffered with mental illness; yet through All of that she survived. She succeeded. She prevailed. She took care of her family and she still thought of others.
As Mother’s Day approaches I am filled with joy at who my Mother really was, and shame that I did not appreciate her for so many years. Later in life she lived with me for a period of time, but we never found our way back to a solid relationship. I sometimes hear stories of the things she accomplished in life from family members and wish that I had allowed myself to know her better. I think I would be a better person if I had been able to be a part of her life, under her example.
Life passes so quickly. The older I get, the more I realize how true this is. When all is said and done, as simple as it was said in a song, as forceful as it was said in a paraphrase of a commandment by Jesus in the bible, “Love is all there is.” Love your family, your friends, your co-workers. Make an investment in their lives by being there for them in whatever way life allows you to.
As this weekend approaches remind yourself, you only get one Mother. Love her. In all likeliness she has made many sacrifices for you. Appreciate them. Forgive her shortcomings, we all have them. If you are still fortunate enough to have your Mom in your life make it a point to let her know how grateful you are to have her. I believe God gives a Mom a love for her children like no other. I am thankful for the Mother that he gave to me. When I get bogged down in remorse for not having cultivated a more meaningful bond with my Mom, I push past that bump in the road, and remind myself that being a good Mom to my children is what is important now. I hope that I have some of her kind heart, of her giving spirit, of her gentle ways.