Wednesday, March 09, 2011
As a little girl I would play with the kids in the neighborhood and I recall having a fight with one of the girls. I went home angry and crying, my mother washed my face and soothed my ego. I asked her to talk to the other girl. Gently my mother lifted me from the couch onto the floor and said “Lorraine, if you want to play outside you will need to learn to fight your own battles” . My mother taught me how to be brave.
When I was a young teen, I was not so industrious. I was in fact, spoiled and a little lazy. After working all week my Mom would clean the house on Saturday and feeling a little guilty, I would offer to help. I wasn’t a great worker and I recall asking my mother how she could stand doing all this housework. She advised me to “offer it up to God”. I didn’t fully understand this but instead of complaining I would begin each task with a loud reminder that I was “washing the dishes for God” or “cleaning my room for the souls in purgatory”. But the work did become easier. I finished projects, I started new ones without being asked. My mother’s entreaty helped me to learn that there is joy in doing things for others. My mother taught me generosity.
As a young adult I was quick to judge the behavior of others. I could be harsh and unforgiving at what I perceived as foolishness and disrespectful toward beliefs that I did not share. During lunch one day, as I complained about a friends behavior my mother said, in a quiet and peaceful voice “Lorraine, don’t judge a person until you walk a mile in their shoes”. For weeks afterward, I would hold my tongue instead of voicing my opinion. I would try to walk in the others shoes. Soon, I realized that I wasn’t qualified to judge anyone except myself. My mother taught me tolerance.
These last few years, I’d sit with my mother at the nursing home. She greeted me, until the very end, with a smile. She’d stroke my hands, touch my face. Whisper words that often I could not understand. Invariably, my thoughts would lead me to wonder about the lesson I needed to learn from her illness. I always left empty-handed. There was nothing to learn. One rainy Saturday morning I visited early and helped her to have breakfast. There was music playing, so I started being silly, dancing around the room singing. She was smiling at me and shaking her head, much as she would have done when she was well. In an instant I realized that my mother was able to attain what most of us will never be able to do. Without a memory of what was past, or a worry of what would be, Mom’s awareness was wholly in the present. My mother taught me how to live in the moment.