“Treat others with kindness so they have the energy to be kind as well.”
My mother was raised in a small Quaker farming community in the Midwest. Born in 1929, she faced the stark realities during her childhood and young teen years chronicled in Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. Despite the global hardship inflicted by the Great Depression and World War II, she formed core and sustaining values that focused on the goodness of God, the life-changing impact of education, and the importance of families and tight-knit communities in helping us overcome the hardships of life. From these formative years of want, she carved a deep faith in God, a stoic self-reliance and a keen loyalty to family. But like Steinbeck’s Joad family, a better life lay ahead in the mythical west. For college, she moved to Oregon, met my father and married him a day after graduation in 1951. They celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary shortly before his untimely death in 1989.
My parents were both educators. My father served as the superintendent of schools for a district west of Eugene, where we grew up. My mother was a first-grade teacher. She taught us to read, ran the Christian education program at our home church, and volunteered regularly in the community. She believed we discover the greatest meaning in life when we serve others. She loved God and found a rich and sustaining relationship with God to be the key to overcoming so many setbacks and hardships in life. More than anything, she was incredibly loyal. We develop amazing confidence when we know someone is unarguably, unwaveringly in our corner, especially when we don’t deserve it. She gave me that true and enduring experience of grace.
She died in 2003 from complications caused by ovarian cancer. I still think of her every day, and I miss her. I miss her quiet presence and firm resolve that we do the right thing. I miss her strong and instant empathy for the underdog. I miss the way she believed we need to treat others with kindness so they have the energy to be kind as well. Mothers are never perfect, but they are always present, and I’m thankful for the enduring presence of my mother in my life through the many memories I carry of her.
This Mother’s Day, I hope you can still celebrate with your mother. If you’re blessed, your mother will live long enough for you to care for her the way she unselfishly, endlessly cared for you. Happy Mother’s Day.