The blogosphere is swirling this week with posts about mothers, mothering, motherhood; brimming full with tales about mothers and what they have taught us. And so I add my story, the story of my Mama and what she has taught me.
She taught me too many things to number, but I must say, above all, she taught me to serve those in need.
Growing up, the things she did…I thought it was normal–loading your kids into the car to go help a friend who was quarreling with her husband. She didn’t mean for us to see that man pick up his screaming, crying wife and push her into the car; she didn’t know it was going to be so bad, but her friend needed help and she went. “Get your kids in the car!” her friend screamed at her when we arrived. I can still remember the scene. I can still remember my mom refusing to give up on serving this friend. Back into the car we went, over to another friend’s house to get more help.
Then it was my grandmother and my great-grandmother–her in-laws–who needed help. When their neighbourhood became too dangerous to live in, Mama didn’t hesitate. She made space. She gave them each a room, a kitchen, a safe place to live under our own roof. When they were on their feet and no longer had to wait for the retirement home, Mama was still there: checking on them, bringing them grocery shopping, setting up checking accounts, helping them write checks and pay bills. They weren’t always cooperative, but she served them until they died. At my grandmother’s funeral, I remember Mama’s tears for her mother-in-law: “The poor old thing!” she sobbed as she looked at the casket for the last time. I had always thought it was such a bother–taking care of a bitter old woman who was seldom grateful. But that day I knew: Mama had compassion for her.
It was compassion that made her drag us to nursing homes to visit her grandmother, my dad’s grandmother and Mrs Bessie, her longtime friend in church. It was compassion that drove her to serve the youth and children of her church, teaching Sunday school. She served the women of the church, leading devotions and conducting lessons for the UMW.
She did all sorts of other things, for me, for my Dad, sister and brother, for relatives, for friends, for neighbours. Today she is still serving–now taking care of her own elderly mother, organizing a food bank, teaching art and craft to children in the church and community, babysitting my nephews, sewing baby quilts for every grandchild, making trips to Singapore (!) to help me after the births of my three children, hosting my family when we go back to the States to visit.
“She’s amazing,” my sister told me after she’d received her help for probably the thousandth time.
She is… and she has no idea.