It was my mother Elaine’s birthday on Sunday. I find myself reflecting on the impact she has on me and let’s say it is not small. She is one of the most gracious women I know AND I get to call her mom. This gift is not lost on me.
My mom describes the way she came to God as a movement toward light. I was pretty little (around five years old) when it began. I still remember her taking me to church for the first time and how I somehow felt like it was to be a second home. All these years later I can say that feeling proved accurate. In nurturing her own faith, my mom nurtured mine.
Growing up, our home was always warm and inviting. I think people felt like they could put their feet up and get comfortable. My mom had this way of combining antique finds, homemade things and sentimental pieces. I recognize that I try to do the same. It was in this kind of setting that my friends would find the courage to talk about hard life stuff with my mom. She has always been a good listener.
Creativity was encouraged by my mom. We had access to a trunk overflowing with art supplies. In an effort to let me “have my own voice”, I was allowed to choose my outfits from a very young age (I picked some doozies). Though I’m certain this wasn’t easy, as a single parent she managed to purchase an upright piano and pay for lessons so that I could learn to play. She showed up to all of the school concerts and plays I was in all while supporting my brother in his areas of interest too.
Over the years my mom has endured significant loss: she lost both of her parents and her marriage in a short period of time. In 2002 she had brain surgery that stole her ability to live independently, walk, stand, and eat food through her mouth. A fine artist, the surgery took away the use of her hands, though she has “one good finger” (as she describes it) with which she can use an iPad. Just weeks after being finally moved to a hospital close to my brother and our families, mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy. Somehow through all of this her response to the suffering has been patient endurance. I know she has allowed herself to weep. I also know she intentionally chooses joy.
My mom, among many other things, has helped me learn how to linger over a meal, enjoy conversation, make popcorn on the stove, value tithing, drive a standard car, really appreciate colour, listen to the CBC, sort out my brain by writing a list, persevere even when things are hard, and lean on God.
In an article that Tim Challies wrote about my mom, he said: “A short time ago my mother visited Elaine and asked how she deals with all that she has suffered. Elaine looked at her quizzically and said, ‘But I don’t feel like I have suffered.’ She acknowledges that she has endured great challenges and great physical pain, but she cannot and will not see herself as essentially a sufferer.” Now if that isn’t inspiring, I don’t know what is.
I love you mom. Happy birthday.