How do we, in biblical parlance, honour our mothers and fathers?
It was the latest step in a journey familiar to thousands of families.
Dad died in 1998 and, in gradually increasing levels of dependency, Mom has lived with me ever since. We had both hoped that, with sufficient assistance, we’d be able to continue that pattern until, as many people of her generation put it, “God calls her home.”
That’s not how it’s turned out.
A couple of falls, gradually increasing dementia, and my own health situation have all conspired to compel this latest transition. We both recognize the necessity. We don’t have to like it.
And I don’t.
But this article isn’t about bemoaning the inevitability of physical or mental deterioration. It’s about reflecting on the influence our mothers, stepmothers, grandmothers, and other “mother figures” have on our lives.
When our kids were young, Mother’s Day was breakfast in bed, a few gifts, and some sort of family outing, with a stop at Mom and Dad’s. My mom was always gramma to my children and she always got handmade cards and lots of hugs.
As we, and they, got older, it became a more “adult” affair. It became a call from afar, some best wishes and the sound of laughing voices “remembering when.”
Mother’s Day got more complicated with the death of my sons’ mother and, later, my divorce from my daughter’s mom.
Through it all, there was gramma.
More years have passed.
A friend posted a picture of two women, one older, one young, with a caption below where the older woman asks the younger to be patient and understanding when she takes longer to perform tasks; when she can no longer remember names, or how to get to the store. She asks her daughter to remember when she taught her how to tie her shoes, and to read, and to be wary of the less kind aspects of life.
It’s a touching story, but it misses the mark. The older woman isn’t like the child she taught. The mother isn’t learning how to do those things for the first time. She isn’t gaining skills that she’ll take with her into the future. There will never again come a time when she will be as independent, where she will step out into the world eager to explore it and experience it and be immersed in it.
For that woman, that mother, the world is a place of diminishing returns, of increasing limitations and shrinking circles.
We often talk of caring for our aging parents as a matter of role reversal. We think of ourselves as becoming our parents’ parent. But that’s wrong. Or at least, it’s only true on the most superficial level.
My mother is still my teacher. I’ve come to realize that where once she taught me how to tie my shoes, and to read, and the way of the world, she now teaches me about the way of the Spirit.
Not by anything so crude as preaching to me or giving me lessons.
She teaches me simply by being.
No, God has not “called her home”, nor do I believe in a “god” who intervenes in the world in that way. But God/Theos has been with her every moment of her life so far. God will continue to be with her, part of her just as she is part of God, forever.
I’ve been privileged to share the journey with them so far, and for a while longer Mom continues to teach me something every day.
I can only wish that I had something so precious to give her in return.
Happy Mother’s Day Mom
All my love