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Mother’s Day

The line stopped me in my tracks and drew me to Scott Simons’ book, “Unforgettable: A Son, A Mother, and the Lessons of a Lifetime.”  I skimmed the book in search of that line; and finally located the line in the last chapter of the book, the chapter recalling the final moments of his mother’s life.  “It is necessary to lose our mothers to finally grow up.”

I was very close to my mother.  I am the second of five children in the family, growing up with three brothers and one sister.  My relationship with my mother was very special; and so I pondered Simons’ statement, how it applied to me.  Did I finally grow up when my mother died on May 14, 2007?  I know and believe that my mother did much to help me grow up while she was alive.  My love of children and love of cooking, making sure everyone is happy, fed, satisfied, comfortable, come from my mother.  My mother was the most important person to affirm my call to the ministry.  My mother was the most important person to support my decision to divorce my first wife.  My mother was the mirror and the foil to help me shape an identity.  I felt free with her, I could be myself, never feeling a need to pretend, to put on a good front.  I felt unconditionally loved and accepted by her.  Not that she approved of everything I did; in fact she often tried to reform me.  But I felt such freedom to find and be myself, to experiment, to push boundaries, because she was my safety net.  When I failed, I knew she would be there no matter what.  When I shamed the family in the speech tournament at Chinese School, I recall that she was the one to ask whether I had my speech as we left the apartment.  I remember telling her, “I don’t need it; the speech has been memorized.”  Well, as I stood on the stage before the audience which included family and relatives, my mind went blank and I totally forgot the speech.  She never said a critical word after that disaster.  To this day, I recall most of her admonishments and corrections and scoldings.  I felt free to take in what I wanted to take in.  It was never a feeling of wanting to rebel against her; rather, I felt that I had permission to experiment, to try out my own wings.  When I succeeded, I knew I made her proud.  And when I failed, she was there to support me and to stand by me.

So when she died, did I finally grow up?  I don’t think so; because I know that I grew up because of her living, all the years when she was alive.  And when she died, I grieved very deeply.  I miss her still.  But the foundation and ground on which I stand is firm and steady, thanks to her.  I am not afraid to experiment, to try new adventures, to risk failure, to live with ambiguity, in mystery, at the age of 82, thanks to her.  I miss her because I have so many things to say to her, to thank her, to tease her and make her laugh, to frustrate her and try her patience, to care for her and to love her.  

4 thoughts on “Mother’s Day”

  1. Thanks pistol,
    So I am remembering your mom, the last memory being her graveside service. And on this 16th anniversary of my mom’s death, another story comes to mind. I was prematurely grey, so she was forever bugging me to dye my hair, which I refused (disobeyed her)! Until one day, at tea time after the Cantonese worship service at the Presbyterian Church in Chinatown. I was sitting beside her and sitting across from us were some first time visitors to the church. The lady visitor asked whether she (my mom) was my wife! My mom never asked me again to dye my hair!

  2. Even though Mother’s Day was an invention of purveyors of candy, flowers, restaurants, and Hallmark cards, it does well in causing many loving children to reflect deeply upon their relationship with their moms past and present. To that I lift a virtual toast and say “Happy Mother’s Day, Cal!” I follow with a question. Do you feel any need to dye your hair now? LOL.

  3. I thought Mother’s Day originated in the U.S. as more of a social justice protest. I Googled the history, and there are lots of versions of history, some going back to Ancient Greece. But the Almanac has a short history that does tell of some of the prophetic U.S. women activists. I somewhat have the temptation at times to upchuck when I see the commercialization and other sweet-nice customs that have become associated with Mother’s Day.

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