Mother's Day is a celebration honoring mothers and motherhood, maternal
bonds and the influence of mothers in society. Although commercialized here in
the U.S. early in the 20th century, its roots go back to the Roman holiday of
Hilaria. The Romans took this day of rejoicing from the Greeks and used the
occasion to honor Cybele, the mother of the gods.
Seven years ago on Mother's Day, my mother knew her end was near. She
had been battling breast cancer for seventeen years and this last reoccurrence
was soon to take her. She knew it. And she also knew that she had bought years
of extra time through her sheer Irish will to survive. She had a lot to live
for: her husband and life partner, five kids, six grandchildren and a huge
collection of friends and former students who adored her.
Mom was boundless energy.
She could outrun, outlast and out-fun all five
of her kids. She loved an adventure. A trip downtown to the dentist in
Washington, D.C. would quickly morph into an outing that rivaled any school
field trip. Museums, the zoo, a movie or monument.
She always made it grand.
Mom loved history, as well she should, the daughter of a college history
professor. She enabled our own witness of history: astronaut parades, a President's
funeral parade, the poor peoples' camp-in on the Mall and the mid-60's civil
rights marches. By high school in the early 1970's, I took a page from her book, flocking to the
Vietnam War demonstrations sweeping D.C.
Despite all this goodness, Mom did have one serious fault: a crummy
sense of direction.
I was eight. Sweltering in
the back seat on a hellish D.C. summer day. We were lost somewhere in downtown,
looping endlessly around a traffic circle. Our destination was nearby Northern Virginia. I remember her mounting frustration. More like exasperation. Suddenly, like a
lightening bolt, she came to a grand solution: "We'll just follow someone
with a Virginia license plate." And we did. She eventually found her way,
as she managed to do all of her life.
Mom's heart was at the beach.
Now, whenever I come up on my first view of a beach, I feel her on my
shoulder. Together we take in a
slow pull of salt air. I have only
a nanosecond to feel her delight in the magnificent eternity of the ocean. Then, she is gone. I’m left feeling her
loss, again. After a couple of moments, I rejoice in being able to have had the
If your mother is still with you on Mother's Day, rejoice.
And if she isn't, rejoice anyway.
And if you're really lucky, somewhere deep in your collection of most
precious things you’ll have a photo of that look in her eye when she first
began holding you.
Happy Mother's Day, mom.