Abraham Lincoln once said, "All that I am and hope to be, I owe to my angel mother." To that, I say "amen." Except for my junior high years (heaven help me when my daughter is 13 years old), I have always wanted to be like my mother when I grew up. I was imitating her as a toddler, mothering my sister and brothers from the time they were born. I grew up knowing that I wanted to be a mother first and foremost (much to the disgust and disappointment of my senior English teacher.) This would simply not have been the case if my mother had not been an example of love and service and joy to me. She isn't perfect and I'm sure that she made some mistakes along the way--not that I can remember any, but I tell myself that she surely made some mistakes along the way so that I feel better, knowing that I surely have and do. (Note: most of the pictures in this post were taken by my dad. I can tell when I look back at them how much he loved taking pictures of her--and how much he loved her. Sometimes it means more to know who is behind the camera when looking at a photo.)
My mom taught me how to make bread, how to do housework, how to read. She taught me to love reading and learning by exposing me to great literature from an early age and by taking an active interest in what I was reading. If I ever read a book that she hadn't already read, Mom read it, too, so that we could talk about it together. My mother taught me (at a very young age, I might add), how to diaper a baby, how to rock him to sleep, how to comfort his cries. My mother taught me to love the Lord and how to gain my own testimony that He lives. She taught me that keeping His commandments brings happiness in life, even though it does not mean that we will not have trials.
My mother has lived a life of faith and sacrifice. As I have gotten older, I am better able to appreciate the trials that she has endured so well. By the time she was seven years older than I am today, she had lost both parents to cancer, her husband, and a five week old son. She raised six kids to adulthood, which I now understand is a trial as much as it is a blessing!:)
When my father was killed, she was our pillar even though her world seemed to be falling apart. We followed her example to forgive; she decided immediately that it would not be productive or healthy to dwell on the manner of his death (he was murdered) or to seek out justice for the perpetrators. She knew that to do so would only lengthen the darkness and misery that we felt. Instead, she told us that she would lean on the Lord and trust Him to care for us, to heal our hearts, to make us whole again. We needed to save our energy to make it through. I know that there had to have been many days when she did not want to get out of bed and get back to her new life without him, where she was not only the mother but the breadwinner; where the responsibility of parenting these children rested solely on her. But she never did stay in bed and let the day go by without her. She got on her knees and asked the Lord to help her get through one more day. And He always did.
I know that I would not be the same person I am today if my mother had responded to that trial differently. I would venture to say the same for my siblings. We drew from her strength and faith and we learned for ourselves how to rely on the Lord. My father's death and my mother's reaction to it were defining experiences in our lives. It was in that year that I learned the most about myself, when I solidified my faith, when I learned that with the Lord's help I can endure anything He asks of me. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to learn these things while in my youth, even if I could never have willingly submitted to such an experience.
My father's passing also strengthened my friendship with my mom. I'm sure that this would have happened by the time I got married, at least, but we needed each other without him there. We began talking on the phone most days and continue to do so now. When she's not teaching, it's not unusual for us to talk three times in a day. She is one of my best friends today. I refuse to consider what my life will be like without her one day.
It has been fun spending these past few days with her. Allison and I came down with our kids for Mom's birthday, and we have just enjoyed being together. We always have a list a mile long of things that we want to do when we're together, but we're also content to just cook together, play a card game, or read to the kids. I hope that we get to do lots more of the things we love to do together, since she plans to retire this year and move nearer to Alli and me. But I know that we will need to expect that she will spend much of her time in service--in her calling, in the temple, on a mission, helping someone in need . . . and I wouldn't have it any other way. I can only hope and pray that I will one day be more like my mother--that her good works and faith will continue to rub off on me for as long as I live.