When you’re writing your mother’s obituary, it occurs to you that sometimes words fail. A life is more than education, residence, employment, awards and surviving family. All the column inches in the newspaper can never hope to capture the full story.
My mother’s life conceived mine. If she had listened to the obstetrician who told her pregnancy and her body didn’t mesh, I would not be here to write these words.
My mother worked hard to make sure I had what I needed. She taught me the value of hard work as a means of reaching beyond the necessities of life into the pleasures. Did I appreciate having to scrub the toilet twice a week? (Make that six times if the first attempt didn’t meet her specification for cleanliness.)
Episodes of raw fried chicken and undercooked potatoes aside, I can prepare tasty and healthy meals because my mother taught me how to use a stove. I started drying the dishes at the age of five (lucky older sister got to wash). I recall stirring jam until I thought my arm would fall off, being hypnotized by the valve on the top of the pressure cooker and sending raw venison through the meat grinder.
My mother taught by example as much as by direct instruction. She loved to read. She sat in the chair with my sister on one side and me on the other, reading aloud to us. When we were old enough, we took turns reading the stories to her. She sang along with The Carpenters as their 8-track played on the stereo. She took us to church on Sunday and helped us learn to recite the books of the Bible.
As much as I grumbled about keeping my room clean, I knew what a clean room should look like. Our house was spotless. No need for a “five second rule” in our kitchen. Go ahead and eat directly off the floor; it’s as clean and sanitary as the counters. No joke.
My mother worked at the bank when we were younger. When we were in high school, she returned to college to pursue a nursing degree. She taught me that a person is never too old to pursue a dream.
I resented her determination to get high marks in college. She spent too much time studying, I thought. Of course, when I returned to college as a 40-year-old, I couldn’t settle for less than an “A” either. She had passed her perfectionism on to me – by example as much as admonition.
I wanted to make my own choices. I deliberately chose things she disapproved for my life, claiming it demonstrated my independence from her. Most of my regrets were decisions I made simply because I knew Mom wouldn’t want me to do it. Can anyone say “stupid”?
I didn’t appreciate her advice until I had children of my own. I didn’t understand her grief at my rebellion until my own children stood toe-to-toe with me debating the rules I set for them. The magnitude of her love in the face of my idiocy boomed like a megaphone when I cried over my own children.
How can these sentiments be expressed in journalistic style for the obituary page? In truth, I’ve barely scratched the surface of describing my mother’s life. More experiences lie ahead when the epic boundlessness of her love and sacrifice will be revealed again and again.
A mother’s life is about securing the best for her children and grandchildren. In the absence of financial wealth to purchase this, my mother spent her own blood, sweat, tears, love, wisdom and time to procure success by outfitting us to strive for it.
What words describe your mother’s life or your life as a mother?