When he returned from college on this given day, I asked him how his speech went and who he spoke about. I could tell by his hesitation to respond and his demeanor that something was amiss. After a bit of prodding, he relented that he spoke about me. Me? I am no historical figure!
Being the mother I am, I could not let it go so now I wanted to know what he said. For whatever reason, he would not share anything with me. He even went so far as to advise me that if I wanted to know what he shared with his classmates then I could ask them. I did! Nothing! Of course, if you know my son at all, you know it is not in his personality to openly share his feelings. He has never felt comfortable bearing his soul.
As the days rolled by, I became very curious as to why he would not share. Did he say something embarrassing? Did he say something that would hurt me? Did he lie (of course this was way out in left field as I have never known my son to tell such a lie to me)? What could possibly be holding him back?
For whatever reason, yesterday my son relented and gave me a draft copy of what he shared orally with his college class. Here is how it reads:
“I spent hours sitting behind my computer trying to find the perfect historical figure to speak on today. I looked at many figures that, to me, are immensely important individuals. I looked at past presidents and social leaders. I looked at those whose voices could shake the very foundation of the building they spoke in and at those whose soft whispers could silence riots. I looked at these people, unable to decide on the perfect subject. Through pondering, hours of pondering, I concluded that the perfect subject to speak on today is closer to home than I had even considered. I concluded that these people of great power, and those possessing earth-shaking voices, had nowhere near the impact on my life as did the woman whom I will talk about today. This woman defines “determination”. This woman defines “positivity”. This woman defines “kindness”. This woman redefines “successful”. This woman is no other than my mom!
My mother is the very definition of determination and for good reason. Shortly after I was born, my mother and father separated. In their separation, my mom gained full custody of me. While this was a win for her, she had signed herself up for a lifetime of dedication and responsibility. My mother now had to care not only for herself, but also for a crying infant. Her money was stretched thin, but I always had my essentials. She worked long hours to ensure that she could afford to pay the bills, but she always made time for me. There were days when her bank account reached its limits, when the prospect of food for both mouths in the house was impossible, and she was forced to choose, her or me. Throughout the entirety of my early childhood, the issue of money arose, but as my mother says whenever she reflects on those times, ‘You never went hungry.’ Her determination spread beyond supplying my needs. She was determined that I have a nice childhood and a proper home. Even when she couldn’t afford it, I always had a Christmas. Even when she struggled to make ends meet, I always had a roof over my head.
Even through all the troubles my mother faced when I was a child, she never complained, not once. She looked out over the fog of negativity that surrounded so many other people, and she refused to follow them. She is the very essence of positivity. She never complained because she enjoyed every second of her struggles. Her troubles with food and bills, needs and wants, were a pleasure to her because she knew that it would all pay off when she saw me don the robe and hat of graduation. She told me that when she saw me walk across the floor for my high school graduation and take my high school diploma, she knew all she had been through was worth it.
My mother, along with determination and positivity, is an immensely kind person. Her heart bleeds for problems that beset anyone, whether she knows them or not. She goes out of her way to ensure that the affected person knows someone cares about them, that there is someone out there who wants to help them. In her mind, her personal needs are nothing compared to the needs of others, a trait which was shared equally by her own mother. My family has taken to calling her first if an issue arises, as they know my mother will be the first responder and the last one to leave. To me, she is the image of kindness. To me, she is the nicest person I will ever meet. To me, she is my hero.
My mother’s definition of the word ‘successful’ is unlike any traditional meaning that is typically shared. Titles, money, fame, none of these things fit in my mother’s definition of success. As a child, my grandmother instilled in her daughter that when someone dies, no matter their fame or fast cars, their bank account or title, they will be remembered by the actions they took. My mother carries this through with her daily. Money, to her, is worthless if she cannot help those in need. Fame, to her, is unimportant if it prohibits her from being there when she is needed. Her priority is others, not herself. Selflessness, not selfishness.
I have discussed many of the traits that apply to my mother, but the most important aspect of my mom to me is deeper than that. That aspect being the fact that she is my best friend. She is my comfort. She is my chief advisor. She is my correction. There is no one who understands me more than my mother, not my friends, not my family. With her I can confide in virtually anything. With her I can share my problems and, in turn, receive wisdom. She is the only one who can see through my bluffs and notice when something is wrong. She is the only who can then prod a smile out of me through techniques only she knows.
I have talked about how my mother defines the words determination, positivity, and kindness, and how she also redefines the word successful. I have discussed her selfless nature and her loving demeanor. However, maybe there are those who would disagree. Maybe there are some who do not think my mother defines determination. Maybe those people do not think she defines positivity and kindness. Perhaps those people disagree with my mother’s redefinition of success. Maybe to those people my mother is not determined, not positive, not kind, and certainly not successful, but ... she most certainly is to me. Thank you.”
Wow! What does a mother do after reading something as this? Yep, she cries! And then she cries some more! I failed not in my response. I could not believe what I was reading. I could not believe this is how my son perceived me. Yes, it is something we all strive to instill. It is things we all desire our children to see in and through us. It is every mother’s heart’s desire come true. It was all this and more.
Of course, as you can well imagine, for quite some time I replayed these words over and over in my head. No matter how many times I replayed them, there was something amiss. There was something not quite right. For the life of me, I could not figure it out until much later. When the realization hit me, it was as if a ton of bricks had fallen on me. My emotional high quickly turned to despair.
I know you must be asking, “What in the world are you talking about? Most mothers would kill to have a child say such things about them, especially to share with their peers in college.” You are right in thinking just that because it was what I originally thought also. I was on a natural high until I realized the one thing, above all things, which I wanted to instill in my child was not mentioned at all. The most important thing a child could possibly see in a parent was not in my son’s written words. In just a matter of seconds, I went from being successful to feeling as if I were the biggest failure in the world. Where did I go wrong? Where did I fail?
I again cried. This time my tears were of sadness and failure. My tears were no longer tears of joy.
Have you figured it out yet? Do you see what is missing here? What about my faith? What about my walk with Christ? What about the importance of His Word in my daily life? Did not my son see this in me? Have I been so remiss about my relationship with Christ that it is not significant in the eyes of my child? The most vital and precious character I would want anyone to see ... especially my children ... was missing in my son’s mental description of me. The more the realization sunk in, the heavier my heart became.
I apologized to God. I felt as if I had failed Jesus in the most destructive way possible. How could this be? I finally mustered up the courage to broach the subject with my son. I did not want him to feel as if I were ungrateful for what he had shared, but I needed him to realize the significance of where I had failed. I did not show him where his lifeline truly laid. I did not show him where his strength would come from in days ahead. I did not show him the true essence of love. I did not show him Jesus Christ! The heaviness in my heart was more than I could carry alone. I had to discuss it with my son. I had to make it clear to him that all those qualities he found so admirable in me were only there because of Jesus Christ in my life. Jesus instilled me to be this person my son perceived. He, Jesus Christ, was my being. It was Him living in and through me that gave me the desire ... the strength ... the ability ... to be all these things. I so needed my son to truly grasp the reality of this.
My heart is where it needs to be. My heart is as it should be after reading such a heartfelt tribute to a mother from a son. My son reassured me that he knew it was my faith which enabled me to be who I am today. He said, “Mom, I did share this in my public speech. It was not in my notes, but it was and always will be in my heart. I know you love the Lord. You have showed me this love since the day I was mature enough to understand it.” Whew! I can breathe now.
I had many struggles and shed many tears over the years. I always did this in the solace of my room, out of the sight of my son. We endured more than he would ever know or that he will ever know. I am joyful he saw only enough to leave such a wonderful and precious picture of me in his mind. I am thankful this is all he saw because I failed more times than I succeeded in many areas. I was far from a perfect parent, and I came with many faults. We do the best we can, and we rely on God to do what we cannot do. It is because of God that my son only ever saw what he did!
I love my children ... my family ... my friends ... everyone! Sometimes when I ponder what I cannot do for others but desire to do, my heart hurts so much I feel as if it will break and fall out of my chest. This opens me up to hurt a lot but it is well worth it. Jesus gave me this heart. He took the damaged, hard heart I was carrying around for many years and replaced it with this tender heart. It comes with a lot of responsibility, this new heart! It hurts more times than I would like to share. It causes problems I never knew existed before, but I would not trade it for anything or anyone. It is His heart beating in me. My heart is nowhere as big or tender as Christ would like it to be, but for me, it is enough. Not enough of him, but enough for me. If he tenderized it any more than it is, I could not handle it.
To all parents out there, do not beat yourself up for what you think you should do but cannot ... for what you cannot do but should. Love your child where you are today. They may never verbalize the impact you have on their lives the way my son has, but you are planting seeds. Never doubt it.
Though I may agree or disagree with things my son shared, the bit about food was no exaggeration. I remember one day when I came to work I found an envelope on my desk. It was a plain white envelope with my name typed on the front of it. I could not tell where it came from or who laid it there. I opened it up and found a note typed which read something like this (if my memory serves me well), “Please take this and know your struggles do not go unnoticed. Someone once blessed me and now I choose to bless you. Go buy groceries for you and your son.” Inside that envelope was a hundred dollar bill.
My son was about 3 years of age at the time, and I was going through a very, VERY difficult time. No I did not wear my burdens on my sleeves for the world to see. Quite the opposite really. I struggled with pride a great deal in those days. I always thought weakness was a curse. I still struggle with this today. However, God never failed to provide. Sometimes His provisions came in and through some strange avenues, but He always delivered. It may not have always been in abundance, but it was exactly what we needed. Lean on Him today, and He will do the same for you. He continues to do the same for me and my family today!