EDITORIAL: When your mother dies
By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
On March 3, I joined millions of people who have learned that their mother had died. It seems like this should not be an earth-shattering event. I mean that, with so many mothers passing away each year, it shouldn’t be all that big of a deal. But, of the many events that have happened in my life, this single event has had a profound impact on mine.
My mother was my protector, friend, instructor and healer for 55 years. She gave me substance and helped me grow to be a man. When the time came, she forced me to let go of her apron strings and told me to go make it on my own. She did this not out of hate or sense of duty, but out of love. For her, the easy thing to do would have been to hold on to me and continue to “mother” me till she could no longer do so. She knew that I needed to learn to be on my own because she would someday no longer be able to care for me. The most loving, motherly thing she could do for me was to let me go. Mothers know exactly what their children need to succeed.
No one’s experience with their mother is perfect. Life is a series of mountain top and valley experiences. Life was like that for us as well. There were times in life when either my decisions or her decisions would put a wedge between us. Early in my life, material things and other relationships sought to take the place of or be put in front of the one that I had with my mom. As I grew and continue to grow, or maybe the right word is “mature”, I more clearly understand the meaninglessness of material things. The satisfaction they give is temporary and things typically wear out. Relationships are what you make of them and some may make you incredibly happy for a time, but a human relationship that requires you to sacrifice another is typically a destructive relationship, especially if the relationship that you are asked to sever is the one with your mother.
Any woman who has healthy reproductive organs can bear a child. That is not all there is to being a mother, even though it is all you need to get your name typed beside that designation on a birth certificate. There are thousands of women, and men for that matter, who are mothers who could not have biological children of their own. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “mother” in the verb usage as “to be or act as mother to (someone): to care for or protect (someone) like a mother”. Basically, you may be motherly simply by raising or caring for a child.
I have a dear friend who adopted a child. I recently asked her how she came to love the child of another woman like she was her own. Her answer was very matter of fact. She saw a child that was in an abusive relationship with her parents who were separated. In one household, the child was being used as slave labor. In the other household, the child was verbally abused by both the parent and the step-parent. Witnessing this, my friend offered the child an alternative to the joyless life that it was living. And the child accepted. There was no resistance from the parents, who were happy to be free of the obligation. Now, my friend admits that her relationship with the child has not been perfect. As we have mentioned before, the nature of life is ups and downs. But, nonetheless, this mother loves that child as much as she loves her biological child. There is no distinction. That is the nature of motherhood. The urge to protect and care for a child, regardless of the child’s age.
My mother was trying to “mother” me till the day she passed. She was not with me at the end, but I know in her last moments, she was going through the inventory of things that I and her other children might need. That’s just what mothers do.
As we approach Mother’s Day, I would just like to say thanks to all of those who take the role of mother to heart; who go through the pain and sacrifice that come with being a mother. Know that you are raising the future and that your efforts are not in vain. Know that while you and your children will make mistakes that those choices do not necessarily make good or bad children. They are just a part of the nature of life’s ebb and flow.
And, for all of us who have or have had the care and protection of a mother, please do not take it or them for granted. Realize that your mother could have chosen to be anything else in the world she wanted to be, but she chose you. When you are young, much maintenance is required and mother gives up her time to nurture you. As you depend on her less, she will eventually need to depend on you more. Don’t turn away from that responsibility. Don’t try to substitute money or things for what she will really need and want, which is time with you. Make every day of the year Mother’s Day for your mom.
And, if you are one of us who have finally seen the days of life without mother, I hope that you have fond memories of her. I hope that you gave that time back that she gave you so early in your life. In my opinion, there are few gifts on earth greater than that of your mother.