I often think about who I would be without her. About how different my life would be if I didn’t grow up with someone so willing to wear their heart on their sleeve. Would I still work to emulate her generosity? Would I still cry even if she hadn’t been there to teach me how to empathize with someone’s pain or celebrate in their joy? Every time I cry at a happy or sad moment, she is there living in me. Every time I decide to reach out and check on someone or give to someone unexpectedly, her example of love is guiding that. Every time the smallest thing brings me joy, her lessons of finding happiness in life’s simple moments are stirring me. Every time I choose to pick myself up after disappointment or loss, she is reminding me that hope is just around the corner.
I tell people you have to meet my mom to even begin to understand who she is. To explain her seems to fall short, there is no one like her. She is the person in the room that always has bubbles, just in case something needs to be celebrated. She is a child whisperer, in part because she has the heart of one. She is the most empathetic person I have ever met, she can’t help but feel other people’s pain. She loves to go for late night trips to get a Coke or see a movie. She is always looking to grab what few dollars she has and give it away to someone else. She is constantly sending little notes or text messages of encouragement. She is checking in and supporting people no matter what is going on in their life or what is going on in hers. I will never truly be able to explain her to you, I can only say that I hope one day you are lucky enough to meet her, but until then let me tell you a little bit about her…
Some of my first memories of my mom where when my dad was in seminary. She used to make donuts and then invite all the neighbors and their kids over for parties on Saturday mornings. There were families from different countries and backgrounds but that never mattered to her, she never even mentioned it. My mom is still that person, she has never met a stranger. She believes in bringing people together or helping when she can. I grew up in church and unfortunately at times that can mean being around judgmental people, but my mom was never that way. In fact the less you ‘fit in’ the more likely she was to seek you out and make you feel welcome. She walks up to people she doesn’t even know in restaurants or other public spaces because she has ‘a sense’ about them. Then ten minutes later you will look over and they are crying and hugging because that person really needed someone to talk to. She opens her arms without ever wondering what someone can do for her which is the truest and most genuine form of love.
Joy in the Small Things:
My mom always wants a Coke (or Pepsi) with an orange slice. She isn’t much of a drinker but she loves sitting out at a bar with people. She is thrilled when you ask her to go to a movie, and if she gets to have popcorn and a soda, well you will feel like you handed her a million bucks. The thing is she doesn’t need a lot, she never has. She finds excitement in all of life’s little things. The joy just bubbles (her favorite thing) from her soul. Your desire to want to spend time with her is what makes her happy. When I was little we never had very much money but I remember she would take us for special treats, like an ice cream cone, or a soda, or a matinee movie. Those are some of my favorite memories as a kid. She has a way of always making the small things seem big, turning every outing in to an adventure, and in turn making you feel like you gave her the world, simply by giving her your time.
There is no bigger cheerleader in my life. She has believed in me with unfailing faith since the day I was born. Don’t get me wrong she doesn’t sugarcoat life for me but she also never set boundaries for who I could become. She has never told me I can’t do something. She encouraged my sister and me to play sports, to not back down from challenges, and to try whatever we were passionate about. In fact, I am certain that one of her few frustrations with us when we were growing up was when we didn’t believe in ourselves. She stood in line with me at X Factor for 7 hours just so I could try and finally live out my dream of becoming a singer (spoiler alert: it didn’t happen). She is definitely the biggest fan of this blog and always sends me encouraging messages. She believes in my ability to be more. She sees something in me that I rarely ever see in myself, and yet, she never pushes. She simply encourages me. Standing behind me always with unconditional love.
I have often wondered how my mom survives the deep empathy she has for others. It is as if her soul connects to other people’s and latches on to their pain. It won’t allow her to just acknowledge someone else’s struggle but requires her to feel it as well. She will be up nights praying, crying, and sending notes of encouragement. It is a gift and a curse for her, I would imagine, to feel this deeply but it is also one of the greatest things she has given me, to see love lived out loud with no barriers. Not just for those that share the same opinions or thoughts but for every person. Somehow she is able to defy most people’s instinct to sink in to solitude and finds a way to reach out to people when others may not even know they are going through something. Never pushing too hard, just wanting to acknowledge that she is with them and she is there for them.
My mom has lost multiple pregnancies, she has lost some of the people she loves the most, she has dealt with difficult medical issues, and people who have taken advantage of her, and yet she remains compassionate. Can you imagine the strength that takes? When most people shut down so they don’t have to feel the pain she seems to open up more, knowing there is likely more pain to be had. But she can’t live in that fear because she was born to show a kind of love that most people don’t have or don’t fully understand. She is vulnerable with her feelings and continues to put herself out there, heart on her sleeve, which makes her more courageous than just about anyone else I know.
I think too often we build people’s accomplishments up in all the wrong ways. We don’t ask how kind they were or how generous they were. We don’t give awards out to people who give all of their heart and soul to others, even if it means emptying themselves at times. We don’t understand how vulnerable people display one of the rarest forms of courage. These kinds of people deserve to have more stories told about them, just like my mom. This is only a glimpse in to who she is but I hope that she proves as an example of an important fact; some of the most influential people in your life will rarely stand in the spotlight, rather they will hold it, finding more pride in others’ light shining then their own. They don’t always get to stand at center stage but God knows they should, so today I shine the light back on the woman who raised me.
Happy Mother’s Day to best one there is. Love you Mom!