Sunday, May 06, 2007

On Motherhood

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.” ~ Proverbs 15:1-2

When I told Keen that I wrote about my problem with anger last week, you might have expected him to say something like: “Well it’s about time you got honest about that!” Or, “Good – I’ve been trying to tell you to get help for years!” But nope. My one-in-a-million, God-broke-the-mold-after-He-made-him husband simply replied: “Bigger diamonds take more polishing.”

“Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
~ Hebrews 12:11

Last week I also shared about how I once aspired to become a witch. But I distinctly remember dreaming about becoming a wife and mother, too. One would imagine that those goals were utterly incompatible; but I submit that my “witchy” side served me quite well as the outnumbered mother of four sons (and one big kid)! In fact, I seriously doubt whether I would have survived the experience without it! (It was them or me!)

On a serious note, May 7th marked the 18th anniversary of my own mother’s death from breast cancer. My mom raised nine children and suffered two miscarriages. She was a registered nurse. She was a loving mother, wife, sister, daughter and friend. If ever there was a saint, it was my mom. But even saints aren’t perfect, and my mom was no exception. She lost her temper, too – and understandably so. (I don’t know many mothers who haven’t. Calgon, take me away.)

The Van Kirk Family on Easter morning (before child #9 - Bob - was born).

Many years ago, when my brother Joe called to tell us that Mom may not live to see another Christmas, I faced my biggest fear. What would happen if Mom passed away without ever knowing how much I loved her? I sobbed and sobbed at the thought, yet for some reason, saying the words, “I love you,” didn’t come easily for me. Keen encouraged me to find a way to tell her how I felt, lest I be forced to live with unbearable regret.

So one day I got up the courage to call my mom on the telephone. Her voice was weak; mine was shaking. “Mom?” “Yes, honey?” “Mom, I’m not saying you’re going to die, but if you ever did die and I never told you how much I love you, I just couldn’t live with myself.” “Oh, thank you dear,” Mom replied. “I love you, too.” “And Mom? I just want you to know that I only have good feelings and memories of my childhood. Being a mother myself now, I understand how difficult parenting can be and how easy it is to lose patience. But I only have the highest feelings of respect and admiration in my heart for you, Mom.” In a choked up voice, she softly replied: “That means more to me than you’ll ever know, Eileen.”

The peace that came over me after that conversation is indescribable. My mom – the one who carried me in her womb, took care of me when I was sick, and loved me in spite of my “icky” disposition – knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I loved and appreciated her more than words could say. She did not go to her grave without knowing that.

She Loved Us Well

By Eileen Umbehr

Before my mother passed away
Eighteen years ago, on the 7th of May
I told her that I understood
She loved us well, did the best she could

I did not want her, to feel upset
In her last days, have one regret
She was the best mom, without a doubt
She knew what motherhood, was all about

Our holidays were always special
Easter baskets and Christmas stockings always full
And on our birthdays, we were kings and queens
With ice cream and cake, and our favorite cuisine

We were all taught, right from wrong
And faith in God, made our family strong
Kisses and hugs, were freely given
Tears were dried, offenses forgiven

I remember a time, when she assigned me a chore
I did not want to do; thought it was a bore
My mother sat beside me, on the stairs
And talked with me quietly, about life’s cares

“Along life’s way, oh daughter of mine,
There will be difficulties, you will find
I wish I could tell you, that all will be merry
But the truth is that life, is not a bowl full of cherries.”

The softness of her speech, and her gentle way
Made such an impression, on me that day
That’s why I should remember, speak in softer tones
For nothing is accomplished, when we throw stones

Later on in my life, as a struggling mother
Problems seemed to follow, one after another
Mom said don’t be afraid, to ask for help
It’s so much better, than trying to do it by yourself.”

I guess I could go on, about the lessons I have learned
From a mother who always gave, seeking nothing in return
I only hope my kids will say, when my life on earth is through:
“She loved us well and did the very best that she could do.”

Mom Eileen with four sons - from left to right, Kirk Van, Keen Alfred II, Jared Joseph, and Joshua Jim