By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published May 16, 2023
I vividly recall my first clumsy efforts to make construction-paper greeting cards for my mother. The message was always written with crayons and signed with a heart. No matter how crooked the card was, my mother praised my efforts as if they’d come straight from the hands of a world-renowned artist. And although my mother died decades ago, each Mother’s Day I cherish the lessons about love she taught me.
She assured me it was okay to be different, and I needed that message desperately, because I was a chubby child, who was last to be chosen for sports teams. While other kids were playing basketball in the street, I was usually hunkered down with a book.
In high school, when the other girls had dates for the prom and I didn’t, I remember standing on the front steps with my mom and confessing my heartache. A big Miami moon smiled down at us as she took me in her arms and assured me that sweethearts would show up in time.
She taught me that you stick by the people you love, despite their failings. My father had a gambling problem, so money had a way of slipping through his fingers. Today he might have received help for his addiction, but back then, people just shrugged it off. Sadly, my mother had to get a teaching job to pay the bills, even though she wanted to stay home with her girls. Leaving my father because of this vexing situation wasn’t an option, because marriage was forever.
She certainly wasn’t perfect, but that didn’t lessen my love. When my sister and I were particularly rambunctious, she would storm out of the house and climb into the car—and then drive around the block until she had regained her composure. We always knew she’d return, but still it was frightening to see the door close behind her.
My mother also showed me that love transcends time. I remember walking into the kitchen one day and seeing her shedding tears into the cookie batter. You see, it was her mother’s recipe and she had lost her mother long ago. It took me a while to understand that the bond between mother and child is eternal.
Above all, my mom taught me about compassion. She was stricken with cancer while I was in graduate school, and it recurred within five years. When she was near dying, my father and I went to the hospital to visit her. She noticed I was coughing, and gently brushed her lips against my forehead, the traditional way of checking for fever.
I wanted to stay with her that night, but she insisted my father take me home, so I could get a good night’s sleep. For the rest of my life, I will remember that on the night she died, my mother’s first concern was my well-being.
I met the man who would become my husband four years after she died. How I wish she could have met him, because I know they would have loved each other. When he died, I added his name to the list of the faithful departed, whom I pray for daily. Although she is probably in heaven by now, her name remains on that list.
I will always miss my mom, especially on Mother’s Day, but I know I’ll meet her again. I picture her sitting at a huge banquet table in heaven, waiting for me. She rushes over and we embrace. And as I take my seat at the table, I hear a familiar voice near me, and turn to see my husband standing there, beaming with love. Then my mother gently says, “Welcome home, Lorraine. We’ve been saving you a place.”