When Mother’s Day approaches, card stores, flower shops, and gift boutiques abound with ideas of how to celebrate our mothers. Each of us looks at how we celebrate our mother, but it is not always as simple as the ads make it sound.
Some of us have been blessed with incredible mothers that we easily revere, but some of us have had mothers whose lives were impacted by illness, poverty, divorce, and a host of things that did not equip her to be the ideal mother we would have hoped for or she may have hoped to be.
Some of us never knew the mother who gave birth to us. Some of our mothers have already passed away. Some of us have mothers who are alive, but distant.
Mother’s Day brings our mothers to remembrance no matter which of these might fit for us as well as other situations I have not mentioned here. The day often brings a blend of emotions.
If we become mothers ourselves, we begin to use a new lens when we look at our own mothers. Into our own mothering we carry things we want to emulate in our mothering as well as things we want to avoid. In either case, it doesn’t take us long to often find a bit more grace for our mother as we start to recognize our own weaknesses and flaws as a mother.
It can be easier to understand our mother many times as well as forgive her for some of the ways she disappointed or hurt us. It can also cause us to seek more grace and guidance from the Lord as we muddle along as mothers hoping our good days outnumber our not-so-good days and our strengths outnumber our weaknesses.
It doesn’t mean we start to idealize our mother, but it does mean we might start looking at her more realistically rather than through the eyes of our childhood.
You see, there is much none of us ever really know about our mother despite all we DO know or THINK we know. Yes, she has told us stories about her life and childhood, but sometimes we don’t listen as well as we could. Sometimes we miss the key thing her story should be telling us and we also don’t recognize that no matter how much she has told us, there is far more that we have not seen or known and never will.
We did not see what our mother was like as a child, all the things that shaped who she was or would become. We know only a small portion of what she hoped and dreamed her adult life would be. We have a hard time seeing her as a person apart from being “our mom”. We know she was a person before that, but that person is largely unknown to us or we see only a sketchy glimpse of her if we are honest.
When I began to recognize that with my own mother, I could acknowledge her weaknesses and yet be less critical of her. I was aware of so many gaps in what I knew about her and realized I was looking at her through a filter of my own relationship with her. That filter was not always accurate.
My mother was born in the midst of World War l, the youngest of three girls. Her parents gave her the name, Delight. She grew up on a farm during a time farmer dads needed sons to help with the farming. Absent any brothers, she and her sisters worked in the fields doing hard work with their dad.
Long before she became my mother she had experienced much I had no frame of reference for. Both of her parents had experienced some levels of depression. Her home and all their belongings were destroyed in a house fire when she was a freshman in high school and the family all lived separately with other people for a year after that until a new home could be built.
One of her sisters became pregnant out of wedlock in early adulthood and was rejected by my mother’s parents. Sometimes her parents gave her sister no food and my mother would hide and sneak food for her sister until her sister moved out of the house.
A year and a half after my mother wed my father near the end of the Great Depression, she became pregnant and delivered a son who died 24 hours later. Three years later I was born healthy, but she was ill. Four years passed and another son was born prematurely. He had cerebral palsy and was developmentally delayed. No one knew much about that back then so there wasn’t the education or help available to aid him or her.
My younger brother’s life began to shape the life of our family, but especially my mother’s. She struggled with his moods, finding a school to educate him, and a host of other things. She experienced much depression during those years. As a child, I understood little of that or the added pressure she knew when he developed other areas of mental problems as an adult.
Those are the big things that I knew and saw. Few knew about her teenage dreams to become a nurse and to travel to far away places. Some knew her love of music since she played an alto sax in high school, sang in a ladies’ barbershop quartet, played piano, and directed the children’s choir at church, but they didn’t know she hoped for more.
Through all of this, she came to know the Lord and grew in her relationship with Him. She was known as a prayer warrior throughout her adult life until her death at the age of 79.
She would think she had accomplished little if she was asked, but through all of this both of her children came to know and love the Lord. Her two grandchildren, her pride and joy, went on to become believers active in ministry. From them, she would have six great-grandchildren, a rich legacy of faith already growing in each even though in this life she only met one.
As I remember her this Mother’s Day weekend, I see her strength in the midst of weakness. I see her courage in the face of her uncertainty and fear. I see her more clearly than ever before, but some things I will never see or know because she was first of all a girl and then a woman named Delight.