“Opperman!” It was my boss. “You have a call on line two. It’s a personal call.”
My daughters knew not to call me at work for anything less than an emergency. As I approached the desk, I remember wondering what would constitute an emergency in their world on that particular day.
Only it wasn’t my daughters calling. It was Dad. He stammered a bit and asked me to meet him at the emergency room. It wasn’t his words so much as the rhythmic counting of someone doing CPR in the background that blurred the room and drained the color from my face.
Mothers’ Days hasn’t been the same since.
Mom was very active in the community and church. She ran scholarship dances, led Girl Scout troops, was a den mother for my Boy Scout troop, and held every office of our grammar school and high school parent-teacher associations. She was part of our church’s parish council. She ran the annual church fair for many years, as well as the milk program for our church school. But this list doesn’t do any justice to how many lives she touched.
Somehow, in the middle of all that, she managed to raise five kids on a shoestring budget. We were always her main focus. She was our confidant; our coach; our conscience and protector. She safely negotiated us through all of life’s tragedies. She made our personal worlds better any way she could. As far as we knew, we were awesome. We were strong and smart and destined for something great.
Today, I write blogs and short articles. I speak with kids in our feeding programs, medical clinics and other missions. I frequently find myself in conversations about faith, family and social issues. I’ve even preached at church. And twenty-one years after receiving that fateful call, I am amazed at how many words, opinions and suggestions come directly from memories of mom and all she taught us.
Yesenia’s mother died almost four years ago. When I hear Yesenia and her sisters speak about her and how she influenced their lives, I can’t help but note the similarities. Their mom was a church leader and guardian of their community. Everyone trusted her and went to her for prayer and assistance. In the midst of that role, she raised seven children, each of whom knew they were loved, fortunate and special.
The years have flown by. Later today, we will visit the grave of Yesenia’s mother with flowers and I am sure there will be tears. At this point, the siblings still fret about the loss of her opinion and support as they face life’s challenges. Many times, they look to Yesenia as the oldest sister, to provide that role. Yesenia already realizes how much her mother’s lessons and example influence her responses. It won’t be long before they all understand how they still call on their mom, in effect, for help in dealing with life.
I’m not sure when I started realizing the influence my mother has on my faith, politics and sensibilities. On Mother’s Day of 2009, I wound up at a catholic mass. The priest of course, was speaking about motherhood and Mary’s influence in the life of Jesus. Now I don’t know if it was because my mother’s name is also Mary or if all of life’s pressures just decided to pile on me at that moment, but I had a total breakdown in back of the church. I had to leave because I couldn’t stop crying. For the first time since she died, I went to visit my mother’s grave.
It was a short time later that I got back on the path of following Christ. I barely knew Yesenia from a couple of mission trips. We had just kicked off a Facebook friendship when her mother passed. I read all the condolence messages posted on her site. They were almost all faith-based or inspirational. They reminded me of a conversation I had with my best friend when my own mother went to the Lord: “If one more person tells me how happy I should be that Mom’s in a better place, I’m going to punch them out.”
So despite my born-again enthusiasm and the limitations of Google Translator, I decided to relate that story to Yesenia in a private message. Then I told her that if she wanted to have a slightly less-than-evangelical conversation about how much losing your mother sucks, she could feel free to call me or email me back.
We laugh about what she actually understood that conversation to say. (Google translator is a little weak!) But more recently, when one of her sisters started crying about how their mom was going to miss a family event, I heard Yesenia relating another conversation we had right before our wedding. We spoke of how happy we knew our mothers would be about the direction our lives were taking. There is no doubt that they would have become firm friends if they ever met each other. In fact, we decided that they probably spend a great deal of time together in heaven, bragging about their kids over cups of tea.
When we need to find the right words or make a hard decision, of course we go to God. But when the words or decisions elicit memories of our wonderful mothers, I can’t help but think that the two of them have been talking to Jesus about these things too. Their influence keeps coming through.
Is there a point to this blog? Well, mostly it is just an excuse to brag about my mom. But if there is a point, it is this: If you were lucky enough to know your mom and then lost her; that does indeed suck. Our humanness dictates that we should feel sad or angry about it for a while. Mothers’ Day may be difficult, but it won’t always be. Your mom lives on. Keep your eyes and mind open. I am sure you will feel her all around you again soon; like I do.
“A mother lives as long as her last child breathes; and if she is known to her grandchildren, longer still.” –PJ Joseph