Early Saturday morning, a week ago, my beloved mother passed away at the age of 83.
While we are heartbroken, this is also a time of loving reflection on her life and her impact on her family.
A hallmark of my mother’s life was her deep adoration for my father. Indeed, the highest form of praise she could give any of her children was the statement: “You are so much like your daddy.”
She was generous with these favorable comparisons. deserved or not. They were usually bestowed after one of us had fixed something, built something, grown something, or done something she thought was clever. At these times she would shake her head with wonder and explain that she simply didn’t know how we did it, and that she could never do anything like that herself.
Such humility was another hallmark of hers. It wasn’t false humility, but an honest marvel at others’ skill, and little regard for her own abilities. They were, however, many; our mother was an encourager, our greatest fan, a true believer in her children’s potential, and an example of kindness and gentleness.
She encouraged my creativity by letting me draw on a designated wall in our house and enrolling me in pottery classes. She let me play in the mud and run through the fields and woods around our house. She showed me the beauty of the unprepossessing when she begged my father not to mow until the dandelions and fleabane in the front yard had stopped blooming.
She took me to a nearby abandoned orchard to glean pears and showed me how to make them into golden jars of jam. She sat me on the kitchen countertop and let me make a mess in the flour while she baked. She took me down the fencerows of country roads and showed me how to pick sumac and make it into pink “lemonade.” She taught me to boil sassafras roots into a sweet tea.
She sent me to school with whole wheat sandwiches and fruit while everyone else around me was eating Wonder Bread and potato chips. She taught me to sew, and didn’t bat an eye when I made shapeless calico dresses and wore them to wander the town barefoot with my nose stuck in an old novel. She often collected me early from school to take me with her to her part-time job as a country librarian where we sat quietly together reading stacks and stacks of books.
I don’t know what the word is for the opposite of ‘center of attention,’ but whatever it is, my mother was it. She reflected light, not absorbed it. It was all about us, never about her, and that was the way she liked it. We will miss her every day, but she will continue to bring us joy every day as well.
Mom never caught on to the computer age, so she never read this blog. However, it’s fair to say she is the reason for everything I do to contribute to it, and that’s the reason why I wanted to say these few, inadequate words about her.
My mother wouldn’t consider it to be a compliment, and I know I don’t deserve it, but one day maybe someone in a particularly generous (or delusional) mood might tell me, “You’re so much like your mother.”
And I will treasure it.