Last week found me missing my mom. Not because Mother’s Day was approaching, but because I was having a rough week and even though my mom has been gone for 5 years, when I’m upset my first instinct is to call her. She was my wisest counselor, my most ardent cheerleader and my most effective anti-depressant.
I suppose all mothers are encouragers, at least they should be. But my mother had a bit of an edge in that department because she was a pastor—an encourager by calling and by profession. As I was growing up I remember the phone at our house ringing seemingly non-stop, with people calling my mom (some on a near daily basis!) for her sympathetic ear, a prayer and a dose of encouragement. There were times when she had to let the phone go unanswered or she wouldn’t have gotten anything else done. Caller ID hadn’t been invented yet, so she devised a signal for our family: ring once, hang up and call again. If she was at home, I could count on her to pick up the phone and talk me through whatever crisis I was experiencing that day. Sometimes simply hearing her voice was all it took to make me feel that things would be okay.
As I think of the worries I was dealing with last week, it’s easy for me to imagine what my mother would have said if I’d been able to talk to her . . .
Though she was not one to quote bible verses (she knew how annoying that can be!), my mom did have a few that she kept on hand in her advice arsenal. Often, after I’d unloaded all my worries on her, she’d say, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,” which basically means, “Today has enough to worry about. Stop fretting about what’s going to happen tomorrow, next week or next year; make the best choices you can with this day and let the rest go.” I haven’t heard my mom’s actual voice in five years, but that quote often pops into my head when I’m stressed about the future, and when it does, it is her voice that I “hear” saying it. When it comes to mind, I relax my shoulders and take a deep breath and instantly the world looks a little brighter, a little more manageable.
If I complained to my mother that I was feeling out of control, that life wasn’t unfolding in the way I thought it should, she’d try to get me to see the up-side of my circumstances by saying,
“It’s an adventure!”
My mom’s own life had taken a lot of twists and turns—not always in directions she’d have chosen, but I never remember her complaining. She found a way to greet each day with positivity and enthusiasm. I knew in my heart she was practicing the optimism she was preaching, so it only seemed fair that I should try to do the same.
And finally, after she’d given me her best bolstering, if I was still sounding weepy and whiny, she’d say (loudly and with conviction), “Be of good cheer!” This was a direct order from the woman who had given me such commands as, “Brush your teeth!” “Go to bed!” and “Clean your room!” The instinct to comply with her directives had been established in me at an early age, (plus, she was quoting Jesus himself!) so, although I didn’t always want to hear her say it, I couldn’t help but obey and cheer up.
As my mother spoke those words to me over and over again through the years, I wonder if she had any idea that they would have such staying power, that they would still be giving me strength and wisdom and encouragement long after she was gone.
How fortunate I was that the words she spoke to me were chosen with such care; that they were meant to help me see the world as a good place and to help me look toward the future with hope.
I think she would be glad to know her words have done those things for me.
And I think she’d be glad to know that even though time took her from me, my memory holds her—and her words—tightly.
And it always will.
Photo by James Vernile