I used to watch my mom’s mouth as she read to us from books like The Secret Garden, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Half Magic. She taught me to love books. She taught me a myriad of other things which cannot all be named. Every childhood memory of her is now part of the fabric of me.
I remember how she made me hot lemonade whenever I was sick. I remember when she told me she talked to God all throughout her day, even thanking Him for the little things, like a delightful crossword puzzle. I remember the tenderness in the way she and my dad looked at one another, letting me know that they actually liked each other. I remember how she went back to work when my brother needed braces. I remember how she made me a fancy dress for my 8th grade graduation. I remember how she yelled at me when I was failing Algebra in high school. I remember how she took care of my little sister’s every need when my sister broke her collarbone. I remember how she rescued me when I hadn’t finished reading Jane Eyre in time to write the book report, and she summarized the book for me. I remember how she cared for her mother when Grandma had Alzheimer’s. I remember climbing into her bed in the middle of the night before I went off to college, because I was scared to go out on my own. I cried in her arms and said something silly like, “What if I run out of deodorant?” I remember how, when my brother died, she protected me from seeing the depth of her own grief.
I remember her constancy. She made countless meals, did endless loads of laundry, honored her husband, served her church, was a true friend to several dear women, and was never absent from her children’s lives. She was always there. She was love, spoken often but also lived out in a way that resonated even louder than words.
Every small act of love was like a star hung in the sky of my memories. I can still look up at that carpet of inky night and see thousands of pinpricks of light, and though I cannot name each star, together they are an entire portrait of lights that calls to me, "You are loved, you are loved, you are loved..."
Mom with my older brother Josh.
Mom with me on my first Christmas.
Mom with my little sister Beth.
My mom. She was a quiet hero. Yet there is no award for tirelessly giving of oneself to one’s family. This doesn’t get written down in history books. She, like billions of other women, gave herself to us because she knew it was her way of changing the world. Some do it onstage, in Civil Rights marches, in court rooms, in books or in other public ways. But the rest of us, we are changing the world too. Right in our own homes and in our unpublished lives.
What will my mother’s reward be? The joy of being loved in return. The pride of raising independent children who will in turn, go out and quietly make the world better, one day at a time. The peace of knowing she made God proud of her. And maybe one day, if she is ailing, my gift to her will be sitting at her bedside, holding her hand the way she held mine a thousand times.