…and they heard me murmur…
“I’m kind of missin’ my mom today!”
My mother was beautiful. Inside and out. Being the seventh of nine children she had three older sisters to look up to and compete with and three older brothers duck and hide and to fuss with. Her little sister Audrey and little brother Curt loved her irrationally as well as unconditionally! She was known at old St. Paul’s in Youngstown, OH as “Doris, one of those Hall kids.” It wasn’t always a compliment. I get to blame her outer beauty on her parents… mostly her mother as she looked just like her. Her inner beauty came from the love and nurture she received at Old St. Paul’s. Her biggest fault was having compassion for little children… you know the ones having a bad day. Well, not exactly.
My mother cheated at cards. And board games. My children caught her changing the rules one summer in the middle of a game when she announced… “When Grandma has a 2 of Clubs on a Tuesday… that’s a wild card.” Then she played the 2 of Clubs for the win. I once caught her jumping over the Gumdrop Mountains in CandyLand to beat my little sister. “Mom?” Instant denial. “What?” To this day I’m not certain that she did that to make sure kids knew how to lose in life with some grace or maybe the insecurity that comes from being the 7th of nine children whose mother was killed by a drunk driver or that her father ran away not long after that. She was very competitive (and I don’t even want to tell you about the time she hit me in the head with a shuttlecock playing a ‘fun’ game of badminton in the backyard accompanied with the comment… “What’s the matter? Too fast for you?”) Maybe a bit of both as she put an end to the old saying, “cheaters never win.” She did, yet, despite her cheating behaviors, she never felt cheated in life. Just weeks before she died she said to me… “you know that song, ‘Amazing Love’? I love the line… ‘I’m alive and well, Your Spirit is within me… because YOU died and rose again.’ I AM alive and well!” Then she smiled… this she said while taking on pancreatic cancer. Alive and well. Every day matters. My mom taught me that.
My mother loved my father with a vengeance. I use the last term loosely. They were inseparable. No other man could compare. Maybe because they both grew up in broken, pain-filled homes. Maybe because they quietly made a pact that suggested… “We can do this way better together than with the rules of life we were given.” Their incompleteness was completely obvious to all and their partnership provided a wall of security for their children and their friends. Firm. Seamless. Rooted. It was shaken only by my father’s death. I literally had to pry my mother’s fingers from the casket as we prepared to leave the cemetery chapel that snowy March Friday. “How could someone love someone else that much?” I’ve wondered over the years and lately I’ve wondered would my father have done the same had my mother died first. His fingers would have been harder to pry away. That was 1987. She died ten years ago this past February and for 21 years never looked at another man. Except maybe Frank Gifford. But, my father knew that.
My mother was smart. She played dumb better than most and had a wit and way about her that made you think. I once commented on the looks of a newborn my cousin’s friend brought by the house to show my grandmother. Oh yeah, when my mother married my father she got my father’s mother, too. Grandma lived with us always. A constant source of love and kindness and I never heard my mother and my father’s mother have cross words… Ok. the baby. So, when Lynn left I told my mother…”Gee, Lynn’s baby sure is ugly.” Being clear and direct my mother smiled and said, “Well the first ones usually are.” It didn’t take me long to figure out I’m the oldest. And now I think all newborns are adorable! LOL.. And that time I picked a fight with her when I was nine and announced I was “leaving home” and she quickly pointed out that the stick and red bandana tied off at the end wouldn’t be enough so she got out the small suitcase and suggested I pack a few more shirts and some socks and pants and that I be sure to bring a toothbrush and comb as she had no idea where I was going or how long I’d be gone but wanted me to be prepared. It turns out I didn’t know where I was going and I was gone about five houses down the street long before coming home. She loved me the next day like she did the day before.
My mother was a teacher, a cheerleader and a coach. She sat with me by the fireplace (not because it was cold or we needed more light—that’s where the chair was!) and helped me learn Luther’s Small Catechism. She could still recite the meanings of the 10 Commandments and made sure her children could, too! She taught the 3rd Grade Sunday School class for years at Old St. Paul’s. Because of her I still have the nickname of “Brian One-Time” from my HS basketball friends. You see every time I went to the free throw line for a foul shot just as I was letting go, she’d yell… “one time, Brian”! I missed 50% of my free throws despite having the best field goal percentage on the team. Imagine that! And when my little sister was 13 years old, she coached their girls softball team to a state championship. Truth be told… she had good help. My dad quietly assisted in the background. He made practice fun. Like I said… their partnership was huge!
And my mother could sing. She loved to sing. She taught all of her children (except younger brother David!) how sing the lead and how to sing the harmony while at the same time learning how to dry the dishes at the kitchen sink. Her daddy was a hillbilly from North Carolina and even though I was raised in church… before I learned “Jesus Loves Me” and “The B-I-B-L-E” I knew all the words to Hank Williams’ “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”. Learning harmony is a life skill. I don’t always have to sing the lead. I don’t always have to be in charge and lately, when I sing harmony to someone else’s lead… it’s better all around!
My mother was beautiful. Inside and out. Heck, she still is! Just ask me. Perfectly imperfect and full of love and grace. The life she lived into set to flames the life she was handed. Ten Mother’s Days have passed since her death. Now another Mother’s Day looms. I still miss her and I’d love walk in the front door of our old house this Sunday and bring her a card and a dozen roses and kiss her on the cheek. Then we’d go to the kitchen table for a cup of coffee. My father would have added a box of chocolate. Then he would have eaten that box of chocolate with her. After all, they did so much together.
So, for all the moms out there. Happy Mother’s Day. Keep makin’ memories! For all the moms we miss… happy Mother’s Day to them as well! How will you honor your mother this Sunday? Living or not. I will do my best. That’s all she ever wanted for me. And you, too!
murmuring for the good,