Two weeks ago I hugged my mom’s neck and said good-bye as she left Texas and headed for new adventures in Florida. I’d known it was coming, she’d given us plenty of advance notice, and I was okay with it, until I wasn’t. That night, like a small child, I cried myself to sleep, mourning her absence. I cried off and on the rest of the weekend and even into Monday. Texas is a big state and we lived four hours apart, but she was just a weekend trip away and now, she’s not.
I don’t know if you could even call our relationship close. I would say we are as close as a fiercely independent first born and her mother can be. There are times my mother drives me nuts and I her, we are different in many ways, but I realized something that night; for me, my mother is the symbol of everything that is good in this world. All the intangibles alive and well in me, faith, hope, love, generosity, caring, and compassion are there because of her. All the good in me, she passed along by living it in front of me.
Seared on my heart are vivid memories from my childhood, things I remember like they were yesterday. These memories are the ones that shaped who I am today, the things that she quietly did for others, no fanfare, no expectation of reward or reciprocation, she just did them because that’s who she is. One Christmas a family at church suddenly lost a child. I think I was about 7 or 8 and the child who died was a bit younger. My mom took a meal to them. I remember sitting outside in the dark while she hurried to door, thinking how sad it was for a child to die at Christmas. That is first time I can specifically recall thinking about someone else’s pain. Every year we would go to the mall and choose a child from the Angel Tree whose parent(s) were incarcerated and buy them gifts, I loved being part of that process. I felt compassion for that child whose mommy or daddy was in prison and hoped that we might bring them pleasure on Christmas morning. As I got older, her acts of kindness embarrassed me, like the time she gave a baby gift to the pregnant military police gate guard, someone she did not know. I was mortified that she made a spectacle of us to a complete stranger, but she was undeterred. Ironically, I could see myself doing the very same thing today; giving a baby gift to a pregnant gate guard I don’t know, and loving every minute of it. She cared for my friends whose home lives were troubled, offering them solace and guidance when they needed it.
When my mother in law passed away, my mom stepped in to carry on a tradition Gloria had started of buying the grandchildren new Christmas ornaments every year. My kids got so excited choosing their ornaments and though they are all grown now, each ornament still lovingly adorns our tree. My mother doesn’t have a fancy degree, a high-powered career or even a home to call her own, but what she has cannot be measured by man’s standards. She has a selfless giving heart, the kind that would give her last pair of shoes away if you needed them. She has uncanny ability to overlook a wrong, never uttering a harsh word against the one who hurt her. She puts others before self; even the move to Florida is not about her, but about caring for someone else.
Hopefully someday, I’ll grow up to be half the woman she is.
Becky J Miller