There are so many things to appreciate about the mother I had. Things I resented in my youth but have the utmost gratitude for now that I am a mother myself. And any resentment that still lingers is overshadowed with sadness because my handsome, loving and caring son has never been blessed with the opportunity to meet his grandma – even though he inherited so many of her wonderful attributes.
One memory that sticks out for me comes from my days in elementary school. We had neighbors who were less fortunate than we were, so my mom and grandmom would give them clothes and food from time to time. After noticing our neighbors’ kids wearing shoes that probably weren’t fit for Oscar the Grouch, my mom decided that she would give them a few pairs of my sneakers. Being a huge sneaker head in those days, I was not happy with that plan and couldn’t fathom giving any of them away – to anyone. I would almost rather she had asked me to give away two of my toes than a pair of shoes!
My begging, pleading, and pouting left my mother unphased as she strolled casually around my room with the focus of a ninja and gathered up all the footwear I had into a small sneaker mountain that rivaled an Eastbay catalog. Then she offered me the cruel dignity of deciding which of my precious foot idols I liked least and was most willing to give away. So how does a selfish 9-year-old decide which of her rubber children to give up for adoption? After painful deliberation, I decided to donate a pair of Nike high-tops in favor of my Grape Air Jordan 5’s, which I cherished too much. Afterwards, my brother and cousin— both adolescent boys with a talent for rubbing salt in wounds – told me that I gave away the wrong pair. Either way, Mom would not spare me the pain.
My mom was notorious for doing things like that. It was a God-given personality trait that I just could not understand until much later in life. I thought that she was often going too far to help others. Once while venting to a family friend about how people were abusing her spirit of generosity and vowing that I would never be like her, their response was, “Does your mom ever complain?” And the sobering answer was no. I never heard my mom complain about being used for her kindness. Giving and helping others was something that she loved to do…and this included her children. From field trips to sporting events to class awards, she was always present and proud of us. The bitterness I felt about her being supportive of others at our expense was misguided – because she was there for us as well.
After fighting it for many years, I’ve concluded that helping others is what I like to do also. My mom played a huge role in shaping me into the woman that I am today. She passed away when I was only 23, but that was enough time to learn two key lessons from her model of generosity: it is extremely important to give to others and it’s equally important to take care of yourself while you’re doing so.
Listen to your body, take the necessary time to decompress and refresh. My mother gave so much of herself that she often did not take care of herself. She was the epitome of “other-centeredness.” She always came last. She didn’t listen to her body nor heed the warning signs that something was not quite right. She eventually got sick and succumbed to her illness. Her loss was felt by everyone she touched.
Since my mom passed long before John and I started dating, I often look at our son and think about how much she would enjoy being in his life. She’d be tickled at his little jokes, infatuated with his brilliant personality, and heartwarmed by the enormous generosity he already has at only age five. All the characteristics she had to wrestle to instill in me come so naturally to him. I like to think that some of that comes from his grandma – although they’ve never met. Yes, of course, my husband and I also try to teach him Christian generosity, but we certainly cannot take credit. Ultimately, it’s what God put in him.
You might say it’s a gift. Just like Mom.