I can’t do my mom justice in a blog entry, but I want to share a little of what made her incredible in honor of Mother’s Day. It’s been 3 years since she passed away.
Jewelers use what they call the 4 C’s evaluate diamonds – clarity, color, carat, and cut. But humans are evaluated by other standards. Compassion. Character. Courage. Convictions. Class. By these standards, mom was a priceless jewel.
Mom was a compassionate conservative long before George Bush thought to coin the phrase for political purposes.
She’s always been passionately opposed to abortion. I haven’t always agreed with her on all aspects of the issue, but I have nothing but the utmost respect for her convictions, because she “walked the walk.” Her compassion didn’t end at birth. Every news story of an abandoned child hurt her heart. She’d have adopted them all if she could have. But she did what she could. Aside from the two children she did adopt – for whom I am eternally grateful – there were four more she and my stepfather tried to adopt, as well as the children she has fostered over the years, and her volunteer work with after-school programs and the battered women’s shelter. Her actions have been consistent with her convictions, something increasingly rare these days.
She grew up in the segregated South. But she had the compassion even as a child to know that the status quo was wrong. She did not adopt the bigotry that was so common in that era, in that region. I always found that impressive about her. Too many people go with the flow and don’t stand up against injustice. She took Martin Luther King’s words to heart, to judge people only by the content of their character, and raised her children to do the same. She never tolerated racial epithets or so-called humor in her presence. She had the courage to speak out against prejudice wherever she found it. She didn’t do so out of any sense of political correctness, but simply because she knew it was the right thing to do.
She didn’t leave all of the south behind. She took the best of it with her in her travels through her life – the kindness, the courtesy, the concern for your neighbors. She knew how to act like a lady. She had class. In some families, you know when your mom calls you by your first and middle name, you’re in trouble. While that was true with us, you knew it was really BIG trouble if mom happened to slip into the mildest of curses – it was that rare. She found profanity a crutch for the unimaginative. And in her own small ways, she tried to make the world a more civil place. I was always both amused and impressed when she’d stand up to some drunk, foul-mouthed yahoos at a football game, to let them know their behavior was inappropriate, especially with children around. And it didn’t matter what side they were on. More importantly, I have always been extremely grateful to mom, and my dad as well, for the way they always handled their divorce in anything involving us kids. None of our special occasions, our graduations, our weddings, etc. were marred by any drama about having both parents and their spouses present, wondering if there might be a scene. They handled things with class, with a mutual respect, and wisdom.
The past few years of her life in particular, my mom was more than just a mother, she was my friend. We had fun on our football weekends, but it came to mean so much more than just the sport. If she and I had met in some parallel universe where she wasn’t my mother, I think we’d still have been friends. But it’s hard to imagine a universe in which I’d be who I am, without her as my mom. One thing I know since becoming a mother myself: When the little voice in my head says “You sound just like your mother”, it usually means I’m on the right track. She taught me to value not only education, but to value knowledge for its own sake, and instilled in me a deep love of reading. I was never encouraged to play games, to dumb myself down, or to be anyone other than who I am. She taught me to be an informed and involved citizen, so much so that my favorite 18th birthday memory was about finally getting to vote – and not be embarrassed about admitting it.
One last thing that I think speaks volumes about Mom. I was profoundly touched by a conversation we had when she was about to start chemo. She wasn’t fearful or self-pitying, though she certainly would have been entitled. No, what was bothering her was that, since she was going to be losing her hair anyway, she had wanted to donate it to Locks of Love. She was disappointed that she hadn’t been able to grow it out long enough to do so. Despite her own suffering, what she was concerned about was the gift she hadn’t been able to give a child she’d probably never meet.
In the end, while her heart may have failed her, it never failed any of us, or the children whose lives she touched. I’m not saying she was perfect. There was only one perfect person. She had her struggles and flaws like everyone else. But she did her best to approach life selflessly, compassionately, and with the best of intentions for her family. We couldn’t have asked for more.