Filed Under:  Columns, OpEd, Opinion

Honoring mothers

26th September 2011   ·   0 Comments

By Edmund W. Lewis

Mother’s Day is a holiday set aside to honor and celebrate the women who gave us life. Four months after this year’s special day, the women who ushered us into the world and were our first teachers should still be enjoying a place of honor and reverence in our lives. While it is important to pause collectively every May to pay tribute to the women in our lives, it is even more important to live our lives in a way that honors them daily.

No one has the power or authority to dictate to us when or how we celebrate our mothers.

In the spirit of celebrating mothers as the givers of life and the first teachers, there are many things we can do to demonstrate our love, respect for and appreciation of mothers. Some of them are listed below:

• Don’t wait for Mother’s Day to show mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers how much you love, admire and appreciate them. Use random and deliberate acts of kindness, generosity and thoughtfulness to convey to the women in your life how much they mean to you. It could be something as simple as inviting them over for a cup of coffee, taking them out for a drive on the lake or through City Park, helping them to plant flowers or perform some other home project, or taking them out for dinner and a movie. What matters most is that you let them know they hold a special place in your heart.

• Tell your mother, grandmother and great-grandmother how much you love them in no uncertain terms. Many of us have a hard time saying “I love you” to the special people in our lives but this is often one of the greatest regrets people have when those we love pass away. Tomorrow is not promised. Tell the people you love how much you love them today.

• Remember that “you only get one.” Although many of us often have a number of women who extend their motherly love to us, there is only one mother who ushers each of us into the world and provides us with the kind of safety and unconditional love in the womb that we associate with heaven. We should always respect and honor our mothers and avoid treating them in a manner that brings them pain and sadness.

A college classmate of mine told me several years ago that she had no idea how badly she had hurt her mother with her actions. Although her mother was a widow, she did very little to comfort her and when she did do something for her, she did it begrudgingly. This hurt her mother deeply. In contrast, this woman often had her father-in-law, who had recently lost his wife, over for dinner on a regular. Although her own mother lost her husband nearly two decades ago, my former classmate had never invited her own mother over for dinner. The profundity of what she had done did not hit her until her mother passed away. By then it was too late for her to make amends.

Holding on to grudges and resentment of our mothers only diminishes us in the eyes of God and increases the distance between us and the Creator. Honoring one’s mother, after all, is one of the 10 commandments listed in the Christian bible.

• Take the time to get to really know your mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Oftentimes we take a lot for granted about our loved ones. Take the time to become better acquainted with these special women by spending quiet time with them and asking them questions about the lives they led, their experiences growing up and the things they are most proud of. These women are the cornerstone of your family and should be viewed and treated as such. Take the time and make the effort to learn about their stories, triumphs and regrets.

• Treat all women with respect and insist that everyone you know respects the dignity and abilities of all women. In addition to holding doors open for women, we need to do a better job of respecting the minds and opinions of women. We should also speak up and act accordingly when we hear and/or see others calling women derogatory names, physically abusing women or creating songs, images or films that denigrate women and reduce them to sexual playthings.

By honoring all women, we honor the mothers who carried us for nine months and ushered us into this world.

• Respect life. We need to do a better job of respecting all human life and treating all human beings like the gifts they are. There are no throwaway people and what we do for the least of our brothers and sisters we do to honor not only our mothers but the Creator as well. Respecting life includes loving one another as we love ourselves, sharing what we have with others and doing what we can to reduce the suffering of those around us.

• Stop the killing. The greatest offense one can commit against a mother is to take the life of her child, whether that child is 10 or 41. Every human being that is murdered is somebody’s baby, somebody’s grandbaby, somebody’s treasure. Before taking a human life, we should stop and reflect about all of the lives that will be devastated by the loss of that life. Extinguishing a life eliminates an entire universe of possibilities and diminishes all of us.

As the givers of life, mothers should be honored and their life-giving ability should be viewed as sacred by all.

In celebration of the strength, beauty, courage and selflessness of mothers everywhere, I share several poems that capture the essence of motherhood.

One of those poems, “The Mother” by Gwendolyn Brooks, captures the inner turmoil, regret and sadness many mothers who have chosen to terminate the lives growing inside of them endure. It reads as follows:

Abortions will not let you forget./You remember the children you got that you did not get,/The damp small pulps with a little or with no hair,/The singers and workers that never handled the air./You will never neglect or beat/Them, or silence or buy with a sweet./You will never wind up the sucking-thumb/Or scuttle off ghosts that come./You will never leave them, controlling your luscious sigh,/Return for a snack of them, with gobbling mother-eye./I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed children./I have contracted. I have eased/My dim dears at the breasts they could never suck./ I have said, Sweets, if I sinned, if I seized/Your luck/And your lives from your unfinished reach,/If I stole your births and your names,/Your straight baby tears and your games,/Your stilted or lovely loves, your tumults, your marriages, aches,/and your deaths,/If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths,/Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate./Though why should I whine,/Whine that the crime was other than mine?–/Since anyhow you are dead./Or rather, or instead,/You were never made./But that too, I am afraid,/Is faulty: oh, what shall I say, how is the truth to be said?/You were born, you had body, you died./It is just that you never giggled or planned or cried./Believe me, I loved you all./Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you/All.

Harlem Renaissance writer Langston Hughes has a poem titled “Letter” that underscores the connection Black men have with their mothers and their willingness to always find ways to honor and sustain their mothers. It reads as follows:

Dear Mama, Time I pay rent and get my food/And laundry I don’t have much left/But here is five dollars for you/To show you I still appreciates you./My girl-friend send her love and say/She hopes to lay eyes on you sometime in life./Mama, it has been raining cats and dogs up/Here. Well, that is all so I will close./Your son baby/Respectable as ever,/Joe.

“Mama’s Smile” by Bill Holmes celebrates the unbreakable bond between mother and child. It reads as follows:

The first sight my eyes had seen,/the inspiration of my hopes and dreams./A picture that no words can describe,/beautiful as a black butterfly./An image embedded into my memory,/majestic like the African Safari./A vision descended from Heaven above,/the reflection of God’s unconditional love./A grin, tranquil like the river Nile,/that warms my heart, my Mama’s smile.

Even the faintest sights, sounds and smells can trigger memories of the women who raised and loved us. Bill Holmes captures this in the short poem “Grandmom”:

The smell/of pancakes/in the kitchen/reminds me/how much/I miss you.

Finally, in “A Mother’s Love” Helen Steiner Rice writes:

A mother’s love is something/that no one can explain,/It is made of deep devotion/and of sacrifice and pain./It is endless and unselfish/and enduring come what may/For nothing can destroy it/or take that love away…/It is patient and forgiving/when all others are forsaking,/And it never fails or falters/even though the heart is breaking…/It believes beyond believing/when the world around condemns,/And it glows with all the beauty/of the rarest, brightest gems…/It is far beyond defining,/it defies all explanation,/And it still remains a secret/like the mysteries of creation…/A many splendoured miracle/man cannot understand/

And another wondrous evidence/of God’s tender guiding hand.

This article was originally published in the September 26, 2011 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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