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#70  Mother's Day

I guess most people know their mother is pretty special, when they think about it. Most of the time though, we don’t really think about it. It’s just one of those things, with all of us I think - some things simply have always been there, like the sunrise and the seasons, and of course we just naturally assume they will always be there.

This is my first Mother's Day without a Mom. My Mother was an amazing woman and a very beautiful soul. It’s been almost a year, and I still miss her so much. I know I was very fortunate and enormously blessed to have a Mom I actually got along with - had fun with, talked girl-talk with, and truly respected and loved. Things weren’t always perfect of course. When I was a teenager, there was that classic rebellious phase. But there was never a time when there was any doubt that, for better or for worse, she loved me.

It is a profound a milestone in anyone’s life when we lose a parent. It’s hard when we had a strong and good relationship with them, but it’s much harder still if we didn’t - because so much is left unsaid, unresolved, and sometimes unforgiven. I must be one of the luckiest (if you believe in luck) or the most blessed people on God's green earth, because I had most of my lifetime with a truly amazing, truly beautiful, generous-hearted companion to guide me into how to grow and become the best me I could be. (I’m still working on that.)

My Mother was not the person who physically gave birth to me, but truly, she was my mother absolutely and totally in every other way, in ways my birthmother could not be and much much more. She didn’t owe me that. I was a stray, a mongrel, and a “runt of the litter” besides. When I was born, I almost didn’t make it into this world alive. When I was 18 months old, it looked like I might die. When I was 13, I was a child of alcoholism and neglect. I know my birthmother did the best she could, but she was not able to take care of herself or me. Of course I was undernourished, physically weak and emotionally fragile, and my prospects for a healthy or normal life were nearly hopeless.

But Mother came along and took me home like a stray cat, all ragged and unbeautiful, and loved me. I was skinny and awkward, confused, withdrawn, and scared. She gave me a safe place to grow, and I bloomed. She made me whole and well and happy and healthy and hopeful. She had faith in me, and that made all things possible. She made me into the person I am, mostly just by being who she was.

If you ever think that your children are not paying attention to what you try to teach them, well maybe they aren’t. But the learning is going on underneath. If you are a mother of any kind, please believe me - you are one of the most important and powerful influences on the lives of your children that they will ever have. Even if you mess up, even if you make mistakes, it can still be okay. When you can sincerely say “I’m sorry” and “I love you” and "I believe in you" and "I'm here for you, when you need me, and even when you don't, I'll still be here for you" and then just do the best you can – all the rest of it is not such a big deal, in the long run. It’s not so much what you say, it’s Who you are and How you are that counts.

I don’t call my mother a saint. She wasn’t a saint, and I don't know what that is anyway. She had her share of disappointments; she worked hard, at a job that wasn't all that great. She got angry (appropriately) from time to time. But somehow she raised four kids including an awkward, clueless, and emotionally damaged teenager, and that could not have been easy. I do call her an angel. Very few people today would even have the courage to take that on. She took it on. She saw something in me that I couldn't see, and I guess she thought I deserved a chance. She gave me a whole lot of chances, a whole lot of patience, a lot of forgiveness, and a steady, quiet, everyday kind of love.

Mother was 90 when she left this earth. She was completely sharp and ”with it” to the very last day. She passed quietly in her sleep, and died as gracefully as she had lived, which all of us who loved her were very grateful for. There will never be another soul like her, ever. She was my Angel, truly. She did not give me birth to me, but she gave me my life.

I have no way to tell you how beautiful she was, and always will be. So I’ll just share this letter with you, written to her on Mother’s Day a few years ago. Her health had begun to fade, and it made us all realize how precious she really was to all of us. It made us face the reality that we must someday give her up and let her go. As always, in illness or in health, she was the center of love that pulled us all together across decades and miles and several states. When she passed from this earth, we were there beside her. She didn’t go alone. She was completely surrounded by love. Not the kind in greeting cards, but the quiet kind. The real thing.

Mother, my thoughts and my heart are always with you, and I love you much more than words can say.