I read something a couple months ago. Thought about sharing. Then decided to wait to share until May. People joke that May is the new December. It is jam packed with activities, places to be, people to see, projects to be done, summer to be planned, parties to be attended, gifts to be purchased, … no need to continue. Then we pause for Mother’s Day. We stop and think for a moment how great our moms are and were. Some of us are included in that celebration. Then speed play resumes.
It’s a crazy race. And we often wonder in the midst … is it going anywhere?
Frank Shaeffer penned upon the death of his mother Edith an article I’d like to share with you. If you’re not familiar with the Schaeffers, they were missionaries, thinkers, teachers prolific authors, and the founders of L’Abri. From the NYT obituary: Edith Schaeffer, founder with her husband, Francis Schaeffer, of a Swiss commune considered the theological birthplace of the American religious right, and author of many popular books that helped define conservative Christian family values for a worldwide evangelical audience, mainly female, died on March 30 in Gryon, Switzerland. She was 98.
Frank’s article about his mom in Huffington Post is worth the read. Probably because Edith & Francis are so intriguing no matter your religious affiliation. Maybe because Frank wasn’t a perfect child. Far from perfect – even/especially when lots of people were watching – and judging. (That judging part of life is hard for me as a mom. Ok, as a person.) Possibly because when Frank went wayward, his mom stuck with him, stayed the course, mostly on her knees … with loads of love. Mostly because love wins. And that’s a nice thing to know when life’s crazy tries to steal all the space.
Mom treated everyone she ever met well, spent more time talking to “nobodies” than to the rich and famous who flocked to her after her books were published and became bestsellers. Put it this way: through my experience of being a father (of 3) and grandfather (of 4) I’ve finally been able to test Mom’s life wisdom and spiritual outlook and found out that she was right: Love, Continuity, Beauty, Forgiveness, Art, Life and loving a loving all-forgiving God really are the only things that matter.
Each time I pick up my little grandchildren (or hug Genie’s and my grownup grandkids) and pray for wisdom about how to pass on the best of what I was given I know it is my mother’s example speaking to me. I never go to a classical concert or walk into a museum without remembering how Mom saved her money to take her children to hear the great music played by the great performers and helped me to learn that creativity trumps death.
I never say “I love you” to my wife Genie, to my children Jessica, Francis and John or to my son-in-law Dani or daughter-in-law Becky, let alone to my grandchildren Amanda, Benjamin, Lucy and Jack without remembering who showed me what those words mean.
Mother was a force to be reckoned with, a whole energetic universe contained in one trim little female frame, and she used that force entirely for good.
Mother in the garden at dawn weeding and watering her wonderful flowers and vegetables… Mother typing up a storm while writing her thousands of letters and dozens of books… Mother so pleased that her good friend Betty Ford invited her to the White House to swim laps with her in the White House pool… Mother so please she’d met BB King at one of his concerts when she was 91… Mother praying with me every night before turning out the light as she let me in on her best secret: the universe is not a hard cold lonely meaningless place but a cosmos full of love… Mother never making a sarcastic remark about her children or anyone else and the life-long self-confidence that gave me… Mother deep in conversation with cab drivers and giving her books away (and money, personal phone numbers and her home address) to hotel maids and other total strangers she decided she could help… Mother taking impractical detours to look at something lovely… Mother always late for everything and praying out loud over meals long, so long, at table as she forgot that for the rest of us prayer was mostly a ritual though for her it was an endless conversation with the eternal… Mother cleaning up my vomit after I took drugs as a young wayward teen and then fixing me poached eggs on toast as if I was 3 again… Mother buying me art supplies… Mother’s horror at the “harshness” as she put it, of so many evangelical religious people and the way they treated “the lost” and her saying that “no wonder no one wants to be a Christian if that’s how we treat people!”
Maybe everything has changed for me theologically but some things haven’t changed. I’m still thinking of Mom’s eternal life in her terms because she showed me the way to that hope through her humane consistency and won. Her example defeated my cynicism.
Mom understood me and tried to speak when I said my last “I love you.”
I knew what she was trying to say. It’s the phrase she spoke most to me over my 60 year journey on this earth so far. I answered her thought, and I said, “Thank you, I know you love me and I love you too Mom.” The day before Mom died my last words to her were “I want you to know your prayers for your family have been answered. I credit every moment of joy to your prayers.”
I’ll miss her voice. I learned to trust that voice because of the life witness that backed it up. I know I’ll hear her voice again. You won Mom. I believe.
So, here’s to slowing down. Here’s to knowing that, though the road might be long and fraught with wayward bumps, sometimes ginormous ones, LOVE wins. Here’s to making memories – even ones as simple and profound as gardening and prayers.
Thanks for walking the road with me.