Mother’s Day in my chlld hood always meant wearing a white rose to church, announcing to everyone that our mother was still living. Wearing a red rose was what those would do if their mother had passed on. (I might have the colours reversed.) And the event was always successful in its purpose, as it brought the attention of myself and my five sisters to how wonderful our mother was.
And, she still is today; for, she does live in our hearts even now and always will as her presence is etched deeply in our memories, even pre-conscious memories when she was the source of everything good. And, even everything bad—I remember vividly crying obsessively, “Momma why’d ya do it, momma why’d ya do it, momma why’d ya do it” when I pulled a boiling cup of tea off the table and inflicted third degree burns on my four-year old chest and arm. Of course, momma did not “do this” but at that age “cause and effect” are being burned into our hearts as this time-and-space continuum that we live in demands. For, in a developing mind, if momma is responsible for everything good then it stands to the developing linear reason that she is responsible for everything bad!
But that occasion was one particular moment when momma employed such skill and good judgment, drawing on her memories of life on the farm in central Missouri and then covering my wrinkling skin with lard before she went out to tackle starting, and then driving, an old pick-up truck when she had not yet learned to drive. But she figured out how use the hand-crank on that old jalopy, fire it up, and drive me and my younger sister and I to a neighbor’s house who would then drive us to a physician. During the whole trip my refrain of “momma why’d ya do it” continued but she did not allow her own personal anguish to interfere with the task at hand and, with the help of a neighbor, got me to the doctor.
This is but one demonstration of what I call momma’s faith. I don’t know what went on in her heart at the time, but I know that she often called upon the Lord to address difficulties in life and I’m sure she did on this occasion, even as she simultaneously called upon her inner resources. And she faced many, many crises when raising her six “needful things” and at times found it overwhelming. But, even when seriously ill, she would rise up from the bed and “gird up her loins” and get the job done…and this is faith! Now, she does not have my style of faith which includes the wisdom of various spiritual traditions and quotations of the likes of Shakespeare, T. S. Eliot, and W. H. Auden. And even today, sitting up there in the comfort of heaven, she will often smile and chuckle when I’m knee-deep in my ethereal faith and whisper to me, quoting Hamlet’s mother, “Oh, what a noble mind is here o’erthrown.” But it has never even crossed my mind to dismiss her faith…or that of anyone else…knowing that faith is expressed in different ways through different people. But I remember so clearly the courage she demonstrated in difficult situations and the affirmations of her faith and see so clearly the value and validity of a faith unlike that of “literarylew.” She showed me so clearly that one dimension of faith is doing what needs to be done in one’s day to day life, an employment of the “Will of the Species” which is very much related to what my spiritual tradition calls “the Spirit of God.”
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