I was listening to a radio show in the car this week where a comedian said,
“However old you get, you will always need your mum”.
She continued into quite a funny routine about her own relationships and a news story about a 98 year old woman who had moved into a care home to look after her son, who already lived there.
But I only half listened. You see, I agreed but I was distracted by the question of what happens when, like me, you don’t have your mum around anymore?
My mum was a huge influence on my life. She was the example I followed as a parent and the friend I shared my joys and troubles with. She was an ear to listen, a cuddle to find comfort in, a daily warrior in prayer for me. She was where I went when I wanted to rant and offload about work or home. She was where I would always find a joyous twinkling smile and a welcoming cup of tea. She was Fun and Wisdom and Constancy. She held me in place like the sun does the planets in our solar system.
She was The Mum for all our family (and beyond), such a positive maternal force that I despaired of ever being able to live up to such a standard when my time came. So I asked her once,
“How will I ever become the mum of the family like you are?”
She thought about it for a moment then replied,
“Don’t worry. One day you’ll just wake up and find that you have become her.”
She was right (of course she was – she was The Mum). One day, I found myself looking back at recent events and realised that I had indeed become The Mum. My sons, now accelerating their way through the teenage years, came to me for support ranging from recipes to relationship break ups, just like I had with her. Not just them but now my parents turned to me for backing: I was the one Mum confided in when she found a lump in her breast and I was the one who brought Dad home after he failed a driving assessment. The world had shifted – now I was the one with the gravitational pull holding the other generations in place.
The next few years, more precious than I knew at the time, proved plenty of painful practise in being The Mum. One son off to university. Mum hospitalised after fracturing her hip. Dad’s dementia worsening. Mum ending up in a care home where she died.
However, whilst I still ache with the loss of my mum, I look back on those distressing last years with gratitude. That final dependence on me was her last, and perhaps one of her greatest, gifts to me: it was her way of handing on her mantle. I can see that gradually God had been training me, giving me increasing opportunities to stretch and build my mum muscles so now I can say with confidence that I am The Mum.
It wasn’t the kind of training I would have chosen but it was the kind I needed. It was the answer to the original question I had asked my mum but then ‘your Father knows what you need before you ask him’ (Matthew 6.8). After all, who could be better in teaching us parental love?
I’ll end with something I wrote for my mum for Mothers’ Day and read as my tribute at her funeral. It’s still my prayer:
THE MOTHERING OF MANY
The mothering of many
The foreign student far from home
The son’s friend whose own mother died
The daughter’s friends who turned to her for advice and wisdom
The Sunday lunch guests who came to a morning service alone but left in a family
The gentle offering of mothering to a motherless girl
The ability to share the mothering moments of her own children with others
O root of all motherhood
True Mother of life and all things
Let me be a mother like her
My door and arms always open
To my own and to those You send
Give me listening ears, a wise heart, and welcoming arms
Let me set free my own children to warm the hearts of others
Make me a mother like her
Make me a mother like You