Odds are you never met my mother.
Since her passing when I was a teenager, time has slow-dripped my understanding of how a mother’s influence can last a lifetime — seeping into the most mundane or difficult decisions, how we view the world and those around us, and playing the role of an endless reservoir of strength when life deals us an unexpected blow.
Even in her passing, I could never have made this journey through life without her.
My mother never laughed at anyone as hard as she laughed at herself — her humility wouldn’t have it any other way. For her, laughter was the soundtrack of life. And to her, when she found herself the center of the humor, all the better.
Humility was her secret. Never was she better than anyone else, never was she mean to another, and never was she unable to laugh at herself.
One of her favorite stories was visiting an elementary school in the town where we’d recently moved. Dressed in her Sunday best, she walked the entire school, met with teachers and administrators, only to later discover she’d also worn a red plastic toy airplane propeller hanging from the seat of her yellow linen dress.
Or the time she attended her first professional football game and, looking up at the scoreboard, turned to my dad and suggested they get some of those “balloons for 29 cents” advertised to take home to my brother and me. Long after my Dad explained what she was reading indicated the football team had the “ball on the 29,” she always laughed the hardest when the story was retold, flashing her genuine and disarming smile.
Life was too short not to learn to laugh at yourself, she’d say.
But beyond the sparks emanating from her blue-green eyes, she preached compassion, understanding and a perspective only a difficult life can teach someone. Raised on another continent in another time, living and raising a family in the safe and comparatively comfortable environment of a modest American suburb never diluted the roots of her childhood.
While she was living the American dream she’d heard whispers of while a small child, she never forgot the lessons learned of being the rich you appreciate when you have nothing at all.
If asked, I’ll confess the good things in my heart are a result of a seed being planted by my mother. The rest, well, those are on me and me alone. I truly believe this.
Like I said, my Mom preached life was too short not to learn to laugh at yourself. Ultimately, she was right about the timeline God had for her — taking her as my brother and I crossed into double-digits. But the reality is, she never left us — and never will. Because each day we face the world, we see it through a lens she created. And for us, that is the greatest gift anyone could ever give to us.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.