A pinkish mist fills the sky and the distant mountain is glowing a vibrant purple. The twisty trees with umbrella-like tops are silhouetted against the eerie light, making them feel like a Sydney Long painting; the only things missing are flute-playing nymphs.
No matter how lovely the scene, a giant dark cloud hovers overhead this morning, a cloud that will be here each Mother’s Day forever. This past week was the one-year anniversary of my mother’s graduation to a better place. Though it’s a week we remember her, celebrate her rich life and her new home, the dark cloud of sadness will never completely lift.
Landing on “Go to Heaven”
I like to think of it as a graduation — life provided the lessons needed here to move to the next level. Some learn the lessons at young ages; others, like my mother, absorb them over 93 years. She would have been 94 on April 8. Life, like a big game board, lands us in a better place once we land on the right square.
With a year to think about my mom, to relive special memories of our lives together, and as a parent who understands the depth of sacrifice a mother makes — and as a parent who is about to have three little birdies fly from the nest to college, then life — I can appreciate the sadness and the joy, bundled in a single package of polar opposites, of preparing them to leave.
The Secret Code
No matter how much I think I’ve done as a father, no matter how involved I’ve been, no matter how much I’ve contributed to financial support, my role is a fraction of that of a mother. It’s a special club, with a secret code and a level of intuition that is not given to men. (Though clearly there are men who have to assume that role, and who do so with great dedication.)
Guess How Many
During our first ultrasound, where we saw four babies for the first time (the doctor said the fourth was tiny and would “dissipate”), my wife wondered how she could possibly handle triplets. Yet, in hindsight, she was highly prepared and selected for this role because of it. She had the strength, the guts, the persistence, the organizational skills, and the resolve to pull it off, a task few others could have done so beautifully.
Not only have these kids been raised with grace and beauty, their tiny beaks have been fed little worms of wisdom to prepare them for the day they fly. Like a fry cook in a busy diner, juggling hundreds of orders a day, it has been intense, a bit hectic at moments, but in the end, everyone got the lessons they needed.
Raising triplets (or more) may be difficult, yet all moms have a task that is beyond anything most men can comprehend. No matter how good we are, moms really do have eyes in the back of their heads and extra arms behind their back. Somehow they can be in 60 places at one time. In fact, science has proven that women have 10 times more neural connectors in their brains, giving them that special intuition. Sorry, men, we can never catch up; they are always a hundred steps ahead of us while we’re still trying to figure out how to do one single thing.
I tried for a moment to think of all the lessons I’ve learned from my mother, but it was an impossible task. They were implanted in me so deeply — like a hard drive was plugged in and downloaded. That’s the gift of motherhood: the download. The moment-by-moment repetition of a thousand different things. It may feel like nagging at times to those who don’t seem to be getting the lessons, but in fact, it’s simply part of the process of imprinting instructions for survival.
When we’re in the midst of the daily battle to keep them fed, dressed, and learning their lessons, I know many moms who eagerly (yet still reluctantly) look forward to the day they and their children gain their independence. But the role of a mom never stops. And I’ve realized in this past year that my own mom’s role has continued even beyond her death. Just yesterday I spelled out “MISS-I-SS-I-PPI,” and flashed back to the kitchen table where my mom was teaching me how to remember the word. Her encouragement, her big smile, and the moments of every possible lesson flash back to me. Her imprint is here forever. Though she is physically gone, her spirit and her lessons live on.
There Is No Equal
As a husband or as a father, there is no way I can fathom the depth of a mother’s role or her impact. I’ll never be a member of that secret club, will never learn the secret handshake, never know the special code to enter the club. And, like having a secret society keeping things quietly “handled” in the background, I’m OK with that. I’m thankful it exists because I know no matter how good I am, I can never equal the abilities of a mother.
Each of us is in a different place this morning. For me, it’s looking back on the memory of my mom. For some, mom has been gone for decades. For others, she is still with you. In all cases, all she wants is a little acknowledgment, a little appreciation.
As kids, we cannot understand and appreciate the depth of a mother. As adults, we understand it more fully, but it’s not till they are gone that we wish we could have just one more of those warm hugs and loving looks.
If you’ve still got your mom, give her time and attention like it’s the last time you’ll ever see her, because one day, it will be.
PS: I started writing Sunday Coffee a couple of years ago as a tool to impart life lessons to my kids, who will be leaving the nest soon. It spread after I sent a copy to a friend, who suggested others might also benefit. If you think someone will benefit or enjoy it, pass it on. If you’ve received it from a friend, you can get it in your e-mail inbox weekly by signing up at www.coffeewitheric.com. It’s my gift to you.
Sometimes you’ll see a reference to art, artists, or radio. I make my living as the founder of a little company that produces magazines for the radio and the art industries. You can see everything we do in art by clicking here, or you can go to EricRhoads.com.
During the quarantine, I’ve been on Facebook (Streamline Art Video) live every day at noon ET to offer encouragement, ideas, and things to keep you growing, entertained, and learning something new. Those updates will continue until the quarantine has been lifted across most of America. (To receive them, click this link and hit subscribe.)
Also, each day at 3 p.m. ET, I’m offering segments of the over 400 art instruction videos we’ve produced. We’ve had over 2 million views. If you love art, want to know how art is made, or know someone who might enjoy it, forward this to them. To gain access to these each day at 3 p.m. ET (during quarantine) go to Facebook, search Streamline Art Video, and hit subscribe (or use this link), or do the same on YouTube (this link). If you’d like to see all the ones we’ve done, you can find them here.
I have a goal of teaching 1 million people to paint, because painting deepens your appreciation for life and beauty. I have free lessons for beginners; just go to www.paintbynote.com and get the free guidebook (which has eight free lessons).