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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Remembering Mom

Today is one of those days. I don't have them very often. But every once in a while they seem to sneak up on me. Not depressing or sad, really - but more of a melancholy feel to them, these days seem to mark or commemorate milestones in my life. Today was the birthday of my mother.

If she were still alive, I believe my mother would be turning 85 years old today. My father died when I was a toddler. It seems that had the effect of magnifying my mother's role in my life. She seemed, at times, to be larger than life.

I realized well into my adulthood that she still had a very significant impact on my thinking and perceptions. Not all of them were accurate or even good, mind you, but many of them were shaped or heavily influenced by my mother.

I remember, for example, my first marriage. It was a sad mistake, but I was ashamed to admit that in front of my mother. I realized that my behavior in my marriage was still being influenced by my mother!

Of course Mom never asked for that role in my adult life. She really never tried to meddle or control her kids' lives. She was loving and supportive of our decisions (even our mistakes). But we knew what she approved of and didn't approve of.

And to my astonishment, even as she neared the end of her life, I realized I still very much wanted her approval. Don't ask me why --- it's perhaps a strength and, at the same time, a weakness in me that I've never been able to figure out.

When my mother died, her funeral was nice enough. She'd been very ill in the latter years and her death was not a surprise. Most of us considered it a blessing actually. At the funeral, people stood up in the church and said all sorts of (mostly nice) things about her.
Listening to the stories they told and the things they said, my younger brother and I looked at each other and instantly had the same thought - that these people knew her differently than we did. Their perceptions of my mother were vastly different than my own. Why was that? What an odd revelation to have at your mother's funeral.

Surely my mother was a good woman. She loved her children dearly and generally loved people. She had many friends, and many people leaned on her for support. I guess they did so because she was pretty good at supporting.

She had her weaknesses too - like we all do. At times I've felt I'd need therapy to overcome some of the scars I wanted to blame on Mom. In the end, God's grace has been big enough to enable me to overcome all the challenges I've faced in life. He also helped me to eventually see that no parent is without fault. I guess all parents are like that - somewhat of a conundrum for their children. Ironically, I see that I myself am posting the same dilemma for my own kids. They get to appreciate my virtues and strengths, while at the same time bearing my weaknesses and flaws.
Mom's been dead for many years now. She was such a huge part of my life for most of my years. Life without her has been okay, but it's been different. I sometimes yearn for her perspective. More than once I find myself again wishing for her approval. Things happen in the world and I'll find myself thinking, "Wow! Mom would never believe this!" Or I'll find myself imagining what Mom would think of this or that.

Somehow, life has seemed less complicated without Mom in my life. Maybe it's because I've no longer had to reconcile my feelings with Mom's approval. I know that's an odd thing to say. It's just that she was so much larger than life, and it was like a shadow that I carried with me everywhere - even as an adult. Life without that shadow has seemed less complicated. I never discussed this dilemma with Mom. I wish now that I had. I imagine that she saw her motherhood quite differently than I did. And I genuinely would like to have her perspective on even that.

My mother was a smart woman. She was a wise woman. She wasn't always right. And many of her decisions and ways I can question even today. Still, as I observe that it's her birthday, I think of her fondly. I wish she were here. I value her perspective and her ways. I wish many things in her life could have turned out differently (better) than they did. She died too young and suffered too much - and that's just for starters.

But more importantly, I'm here and thriving. And that is a testament to this woman. I'm grateful that she was my Mom.

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