(I actually wrote today's post well before yesterday's, not long after my mom's health really began to deteriorate and I flew out on short notice to see her one last time.)
Because of my mom, I think of "mother" as both a verb and an ideal. "To
mother" is to sublimate your whole life in the service of nurturing
your children, and to find your greatest personal joy in their growth
My memories of my mom all have this theme in common.
They are too numerous to share all of them, but I want to mention one
very briefly. I got food poisoning once when we were in Taiwan, and
woke up in the middle of the night and threw up all over the floor of
the bedroom where my parents were sleeping. I can still hear the sound
of the barf hitting the floor. I felt absolutely awful that night, and
yet the remembrance of the incident is precious to me because I recall
my mom alternating between comforting me and cleaning up my vomit. To
be loved so tenderly and sacrificially at a time of misery and
discomfort and mess is a profound life experience, one which anchors my
sense of self and also challenges me to love in the same way.
mom is responsible for my own life, obviously, but she also played a
profound role in bringing my three children into my life. She and Amy's
mom accompanied us to China when we adopted Jada in 2005, and she
served as an invaluable resource, translator, and supporter as we became
parents for the first time. When Aaron arrived, my mom put her entire
life on hold and went to Taiwan for four months to make sure everything
was OK with Aaron and with paperwork. And, after the initial shock my
parents expressed when we told them we wanted to do another adoption
several years later, and a newborn and an African-American at that, it
was my mom who was quick to offer encouragement, saying that she could
tell that this was something we wanted to do and that if that was the
case then she supported it.
Living so far away from her, and not
being very well versed in medical things, I did not realize how much
pain and discomfort characterized my mom's last phase of life. It has
been bittersweet to learn this at the end, making things more sad
because I wish she did not have to suffer so, and less sad because I
know that that suffering is now over. These last months and years were not the best for her, but I will remember fondly the brief times she and I
could spend alone when I would visit with the kids. She couldn't talk
much, but her eyes told me she was proud of me as a parent is towards
her children, and that she was proud to see me becoming that kind of
parent towards my children. It lets me know that she knew at the end
that she had done the thing that mattered the most to her in her whole
life, and she had done it well.
I have many positive presences in my life, even many incredible examples of motherhood. But only one gold standard, against which the very essence of motherhood is measured. How lucky am I?