When I try to think of all that I learned from my mom, the first things that come to mind are hospital corners, folding laundry, and making meatloaf.
Honestly, if I am not careful, I could paint a picture of my mom as quite a task master in my growing up years. My sister and I learned how to clean and cook out of necessity--mom was a single, working mother and needed the help of her two young girls to get things done. Of course, the baby boy was off the hook! But Jen and I didn't just learn how to do those things...we learned how to do them right!
We made beds with the precision of army generals--crisp, clean hospital corners every time, a quarter bouncing off the made bed. Folding laundry might have been considered an art, if it were not for the fact that the absolute requirement of doing it "right" diminished the artsmanship of our work. Jeans were shaken out, ironed with our hands, and folded in 3 careful parts. An outside seam of a towel was never to show. And shirts required a full table available to lay it out and fold it properly. None of that "fold in the air, maybe get it even" method I use now in my later life. Oh yes, we learned how to do laundry.
And then there was the cooking. Again, she was a single mom, working late into the afternoon, so she counted on me and my sister (did I mention we have a brother?) to get dinner started, or more often, get it done, by the time she got home. And we did. We learned the art of cooking good, basic meals. Nothing too fancy, but good, wholesome, "stick to the rib" kind of stuff--meatloaf, chili, mashed potatoes (mashed by hand, mind you), fish sticks, and burgers.
What's funny is that I used to think that my mom wasn't great cook. Not that I ever thought she was a bad cook, but because she didn't have anything I thought was special in her repertoire, I thought that meant she was not that good. But then, not too long ago, maybe a couple of years back, I had an epiphany that I got the chance to share with her. What I realized was that all of the best meals I make now in my adult life, the ones the family loves and guests ask for as a special treat, all come from her. No, they may not have been gourmet recipes, but they are really very good, and everyone loves them! I thanked her for that, and thanked God for helping me have that realization.
So yes, I learned a lot from my mom about good, strong domestic ability. I didn't even mention the dusting, vacuuming, refrigerator defrosting, bathroom scrubbing, kitchen cleaning tasks we were also skilled in as a result of her tutelage. She trained us well (that, of course, would be me and Jen), and honestly I am grateful. I have to admit, though, that there was a time in my life that my zeal to do these things "right" bordered on a bit of OCD that may or may not have been healthy...ok, not so healthy. If you have a brief opportunity to talk to my best friend, Heather, or my husband, I am sure they will very willingly share with you stories of me refolding their laundry because they didn't do it "right". Eventually, they both stopped trying. My bad. But thank God, I believe I have been delivered from that at this point of my life. Now my sister, Jennifer...I don't know. You can check with her husband and see what he says. :)
But as much as the first things that come to mind when considering what I have learned from my mom are related to my domestic expertise, I am very aware that those are hardly the only things I learned from her, or not even close to the most important things.
When my dad died, 11 years ago, I thought long and hard about what I felt I most gained from him. His was a complicated relationship, not only with me, but with everyone he knew, so it was sometimes a challenge to wade through all the mess to be able to find the treasure underneath. But it was there. Despite all the bad, there was good from my dad, and I am thankful for that. The one word that seemed to best capture the legacy he left for me and for my siblings was passion. Dad taught us passion. Dad modeled for us passion. Dad breathed passion. And so, as each one of us looks at our own lives and where we have passion, we know that comes from our dad.
So when I was giving the same thought to what I thought best described what Mom taught me, I found it interesting that the one word that came to mind most was actually a portion of Dad's word. I believe that one of the greatest things my mom taught me and our family is compassion.
Compassion and love. My mom had such a big heart. She was tender and loving, and cared for all people. Mom loved people the way we all should. She was not judgemental. She did not look at what you see on the outside, and judge you for it, like many of us do, if you are different from what others deem "normal". Mom looked at someone's heart. She saw their needs. She saw their potential, and she loved them for it. She also had an incredible ability to care for others in the same way. She reached out in love to offer whatever help she could. Sometimes she could not give much, but she would give what she was able. What a beautiful legacy for all of us.
In doing so, mom modeled for us what God teaches us in His word. The Bible tells us in the Old Testament, in I Samuel 16:7 that "the Lord sees not as man sees, for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." That is exactly what mom had the ability to do, to see others' hearts. That was true of her children, her friends, even those who hurt her, and of strangers. She had compassion. In the Bible, in the New Testament, there are several references to the compassion that Christ had for those he served. "He had compassion on them." And so did my mom. She had compassion for others, and I am thankful that she taught me that with her life.
But Mom taught me so much more. It is hard to try to put it all in words. It is a lifetime we are talking about. But I want to be sure to honor the legacy that she leaves behind. I think the one other most outstanding trait that my mother leaves behind is her perseverance. She has taught me to continue to push through, no matter what.
If you know my mom, virtually at any stage of her life, you know that her life has been hard. There have been challenges--hard challenges, sometimes really bad challenges--all along the way. Life was not easy for her. And yes, it took its toll on her, both physically and emotionally. But despite that, my mom always persevered. She never gave up. She never gave in.
She worked hard as a single mom to provide for her family. She endured the painful challenges of an abusive relationship. She managed the rebellious teen years of her kids on her own (thank God, at least one of her children made things easy for her, but I won't mention who...). She went back to school in her early 40's to earn a Bachelor's degree, and almost completed her Masters. She has fought passed illnesses and injuries that could have incapacitated her permanently, but they did not. She kept pressing on. Even up to the very end of her life, when she fought her last battle, she hung on with everything she had as long as she could, until at last she had no choice but to finally give in. Mom taught me, and taught us, perseverance.
Just ask my children what it takes for me to allow them to stay home from school when they are not feeling well! A simple fever or stomach illness just isn't going to do it. They pretty much have to be bleeding from their eyeballs or have severed a limb, and even that's questionable. They too are learning to persevere, a legacy from their grandmother.
In that perseverance, however, there is even a greater message that we can take away from her life. That message is that she didn't do it on her own. She had Christ. Do I want to give mom credit for all she accomplished and all she has taught us? Yes, of course. But the lesson would not be complete if we do not recognize the source of her strength, and the source of her love, and that is Christ alone.
It is mom's greatest legacy that at about 30 years of age, she gave her heart and her life to Christ, and it was His love and His strength that carried her through those next 37 years. And it is because of Him that despite our sadness in her passing, that we have joy in knowing she is with Him. Her life is no longer a struggle. She no longer has any pain. She does not have to persevere any longer, she has arrived. And she is completely surrounded by the true source of all love and compassion. Her heart is full.
There is no greater lesson for me, and for all of us, to learn. Thank you, Mom.