This is unapologetically long because it is for our mothers,
“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all” (Prov. 31:25-31). Since it is a time for family, I want to single out our mothers this morning. These women sacrificed, all considerably, but some even with their lives to ensure our birth. They endured pain beyond comprehension, their bodies being forced into childbirth shape, and the accompanying loss of mobility to one degree or another. Their bodies nourished us and kept us warm. They soothed us with song and gentle touches as they stroked their extended bellies in acts of pure love for the tiny life within its confines. Theirs were the first words we heard. Above all that, they provided a place of safety and security until we were old enough for the day God designed for us to enter this world.
As we took our first breath, we cried – until we were placed into their arms and heard that familiar voice, soothing us with words of love and encouragement. They fed us, stayed up night after night to comfort us, provided for us, clothed us, and continued to protect us with courage that is hard to imagine. They showed us off to the world, introduced us to solid food, taught us to say our first word, and still protected us. They cared for us, crying in agony when we were sick, and yet never showed us as they whispered prayers to God and promised in our ears that everything was going to be OK. We heard those whispers and instinctively knew all would be well. They watched us play and played with us even when they had so many other things to do because we were never a distraction to them. They took our hands and showed us how to shape the letters of our names and “pictures” of the family. Their hearts broke as they dropped us off for our first day of school even though they bravely said, “Enjoy, my child. You will meet new friends and learn all the things of the world here.” They cried as they watched us run off with our friends, but all we saw when we turned back was a smile and wave.
They took us to church for the first time, sang “Jesus love me,” and recited “Now I lay me down to sleep…” every night until the words were ingrained in our memories. They watched us grow from infants to toddlers, to teens and beyond. They were beautiful and brilliant, always had the correct answer, and were the one place we would return to when sick or hurting. We did not know when they were ill as they soldiered on, not wanting us to know their pain. Through our tumultuous teen years, they were there, guiding us, praying that we do not stray from the path of righteousness, and if we did, they prayed even more fervently that we would find our way back. When we went off with friends to our first camp or date, we did not see the tears. All we saw when we looked back was that familiar smile and wave we had seen before. They would go out and work or stay at home and do the same; prepare the food, help us with our homework and clean the house. They would bathe and prepare us for bed; then, they would go and do the ironing and prepare our food for the next day at school. They would do this every day without complaint, treasuring us in a way that we would not appreciate for decades to come.
They were always brave, always honest, always loyal; they remained at our side even when we became aggressive and recalcitrant as young adults trying to find our place in the world. Even if we abused them with disparaging words, mocked them, or ignored them, they remained at our side. When we stormed out of the house angry because we could not or would not understand their reasoning, all we saw when we looked back was that wave and smile. We did not realize the heartbreak that accompanied it, brushing it off with disdain at times. Their love knew no bounds; it still does not. They look at us with pride even though we failed from time to time because, for them, nothing we ever did was a failure, just a learning experience. Every kiss was a band-aid that “made it better,” and every encouraging smile and word of encouragement etched themselves into our hearts forever, even if we did not realize it at the time. They were not afraid to punish us when we needed it but let a stranger touch us, and the Mamma Bear would come out with unequaled ferociousness. One day they would watch us walk down the aisle as we began to forge our own families, and when we looked back, we saw it again – the familiar wave and encouraging smile, but this time it was filled with hope and joy.
And no matter our age, until their dying day, we will always be their baby. Think of that as you open your presents on the 25th while she catches the wrapping paper to discard and cleans the house. Think of that as she makes food, even as you enjoy your gifts. Think of that as you snooze after an “exhausting” morning while she is washing the dishes. Think of that as you glance at her, older now and gray, but still giving you that wave and that smile. Look closely; she is just as beautiful, just as smart, just as dedicated, just as loyal as she ever was – the embodiment of all that is good in your world. Think of that as she showers your children with the same love you had showered on you. And be thankful that you are a great mother because you had a great teacher.