In the past two years I’ve gained membership in three clubs I never knew about and never wanted to join:
- The forlorn my father has passed club;
- The I Miss Mom Every Day Since She Passed club;
- The Family Wrecked Over Remaining Assets club.
I do miss Mom every day. And, yes, in my mind’s eye, I converse with her frequently. Below I reproduce the recollections I offered in celebration of her life.
Of course, as occasion demands, one often overgeneralizes: I used an inclusive “we”, ostensibly in reference to all three children, while yet knowing many beliefs passed on by mom were rejected by the siblings.
I recall the day of Mom’s memorial service. The graveside burial was in the morning. It was a sunny, placid day. The cemetery covered in green grass presented a far more paradise aspect than the stark bare earth of my father’s wintry funeral.
A little bird whispered in my ear: I wore my alb. . . And to my utter surprise was asked to issue forth an impromptu service upon arrival. I did my best.
As we interred mom, each sibling cried. In my pastor’s garb, I duteously attempted to comfort each. And, since August 12, I have wondered whether their tears were merely those of crocodiles. As they knew then what I did not, as they had by then long-planned their course of action, unbeknownst to me, how did they allow me to offer them comfort? I will never know, and it’s just water under the bridge on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
In retrospect, the second to last sentence of the below address was prophetic in this regard: not all have mastered dialogue and the art of apology. Most importantly, some seem to have missed the classes on developing trust through presenting indicia of good faith. But all is water under the bridge.
WHAT I LEARNED FROM MOM
High school friends, cousins, AFS students and their host families, JCC swim team members have all mentioned Mom’s endearing and surprising generosity. Through friends’ eyes I first saw mom as the uplifting person she in fact was.
Mom regularly and willingly sacrificed her own interests to help others, as many of you know. Whether someone needed a ride, the girl Scout troop needed a leader, or a swim meet needed a referee, Mom volunteered. A talented equestrian at the time she met Dad, Mom had as a girl swabbed out horse stalls in exchange for riding lessons. Mom rode English and jumped. Yet when she and dad married, knowing the sport’s risks for serious injury put a future family at risk also, Mom forswore this greatest of passions. For us. Before we were a twinkle even in God’s eyes.
Mom invested her all in us, and by extension, in our community—school, church, swim team and neighborhood. If you didn’t know, Mom’s kindness and generosity sprung from informed Reformed faith. Mom exemplified values squarely rooted in our faith heritage. Most importantly, Mom delivered “The Minority Report.” Mom didn’t judge people by appearances or socio-economic circumstances. Rather, she made sure her daughters understood a broad spectrum of sociological reality and lived by the credo that each is a Child of God.
Mom lived out the old Sunday school song: Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Be they yellow, black or white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.
Mom assumed an active leadership role in the local Church Women United, chapter, furthering reconciliation amongst Christian women of different backgrounds, race, ethnicity, and denominations. Mom encouraged encounter and dialogue with people of all faiths, nationalities, and circumstances, along with Dad, supporting Laura’s healthcare volunteerism in Central America through the Amigos De Las Americas program, Ginger’s studies and internship in a UN program in Austria, and my AFS trip to Turkey and subsequent studies of the Ottoman Empire and Republic of Turkey.
Mom also taught us Nature inspires, providing connection with the Holy. Whether we “stalked the wild asparagus” a la Euell Gibbons vacationing in backwoods Minnesota, practiced recycling, or drove to Missouri Town to exchange animal fat recovered from the broiler pan for soap, we learned an almost Native American-like stewardship of the planet. Precocious Mom was Green head of her time!
Third, Mom provided a living example of the Presbyterian motto of “Reformed and always reforming.” Residing in a Catholic neighborhood as the token Protestants, we often attended Saturday evening mass with friends. Mom happily sent us off to mass, with the guidance that we didn’t venerate saints but that our “job” was to observe and to question and reason in dialogue. Daughter of a biologist and research p-chemist, a woman who studied, taught and published in law, Mom – and Dad, too– didn’t just give us what we wanted; an articulately reasoned argument that we NEEDED something, however, was generally rewarded. I hope I am sufficiently living out this precedent of multi-faith and multicultural dialogue, as dialogue is the bedrock of the civil democratic society our ancestors fought for and our parents championed.
True to Scots tradition, Mom taught us that freedom of conscience in matters of faith is tantamount to survival. Life without freedom of ideas and discourse is not liberty at all. Mom supported Laura’s college years with Campus Crusade, my volunteer work at Amnesty International, and Ginger’s unending ardour as a mother of three. Mom herself engaged in faith outreach to college students.
Mother’s method of discipline is telling in this regard. From the time I was ten, when I misbehaved, Mother would tell me to go to my room and stay there until I “worked it out with God.“ Some friends thought this light punishment. Maybe Mom just Read me well. I didn’t know what she meant the first time she gave this instruction, but the contemplative time-out building awareness of my relationship with God and universe was invaluable.
Finally, Mom taught us engagement with those with whom you have differences—in the hope of reconciliation —is a moral duty. Likewise, differences with God are a call to prayer, where prayer is only 50% words of praise, lament and even complaint, and 50% quietude waiting for divine response. Differences with another call for honest dialogue. The offer of an apology, similarly, demands a concrete response, be it acceptance, rejection or qualification.
I remember mom humming and singing hymns throughout her days of kneading bread, housework and yardwork. Mother showed me that miracles unimagined happen with the prayer unceasing of hymns and holy songs.