“There are two things children should get from their parents: roots and wings.”
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I don’t deserve to have the mother I do. I don’t mean that in a self-deprecating way; Rather I find my mother to be such a rarity that it doesn’t seem fair to others that I ended up with her as my mother. Such is life I suppose, and instead of feeling guilt I am grateful to have this rarity in my life.
I have always been a lot like my mother, the first similarity being our birthday. I often speak of our most valuable qualities coming by way of painful experiences, and me being a nearly 12 pound baby I believe I made my value known from the beginning. This would be the first in a long line of painful moments that my mother endured to allow me to become the man I am today. I often speak about the tools I have in my life, the work that goes on behind the curtain, and today I am revealing the heart behind the curtain, my mother.
My mother has always been the one constant in my life regardless of absolutely any consequence or difficulty. Her presence has been known in the best of times and more importantly in the most challenging times. I am admired by some for my recovery, told of the strength I exhibit and the hope I have given to others and it is all very meaningful to me. But in many ways the admiration is misdirected and the people behind the curtain are forgotten – for the strength that you see in me was given to me by my mother whose strength, determination, and compassion outweigh mine exponentially.
My mother’s story is not for me to tell but I will say that as a child and as an adult I have always known what strength and courage look like. She has been able to carry the pain of mine when I have not been strong enough to shoulder it. She has been stoic in the darkest hours because somebody needed to be. I have cried to her, lashed out at her, been distant, apathetic towards her, and have at times been nothing but an ungrateful embarrassment of a son to her. Not once did she stop loving me – and somewhere, even at my sickest, I knew this.
There are often hyperbolic statements made when we speak of who we would be without a loved one but in my life I need no exaggeration; Without my mothers love and compassion I am not sure I would be here today. I would not have the strength to fight my own fight if I didn’t have her show me what real strength is. Many people may have left me in the hospitals alone, left me to cry alone, to hurt alone, and I wouldn’t really blame these people. But I was never left alone, and for that I am truly grateful.
My mother gave me the freedom to be my own person while remaining close in case my plans failed, which they almost always did. And in the past I often treated my own mother this way, as a sort of safety net in case my idea of living was wrong and I needed to be rescued. It took me 31 years to find a life where I don’t need a safety net and for each of those 31 years she was there for me, putting part of her life on hold for me, making sure I didn’t vanish.
The gift I receive today from her is being able to see what an amazing person she is not because she is my safety net but because she is such an intelligent and confident woman. She has New Orleans Blues running through her veins and can dance until the lights come on. I get to watch a smile come across her face when the entire family is together and somewhere in her mind I think she knows it is her doing that makes this all possible.
My gift to her, after so many years of taking, is being a reliable son who can shoulder pain for her the way she has done for me throughout my life. Part of my purpose is to let her know that her efforts were not made in vein, that she didn’t fight to save me for no good reason. She is still the heart that keeps me going, only this time the heart doesn’t hurt so much and the tears are born out of happiness and not worry or sadness. She has taught me how to be of service to others, how to put my needs behind others, and how to show love without always getting the same in return.
I will always need my mother, things like that never change. I will always think of ways to make her proud of me, to make her smile, and to make her know that her life of sacrifice is beyond what anyone has ever done for me. Since day one she has been a walking example of how to treat others well, how to show love and how to make others feel loved. For most of my life I wasn’t prepared to accept this example, I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my ways the way she had sacrificed herself for others.
Today I think I understand the seed she planted in me since I was a child. If I am capable of being 10% of the person my mother is I will consider my life to be one that is well-lived and admirable. She has shown me that at the bottom of everything, at the twilight before the sun sets, the most important thing is to connect with other people. She has instilled in me a desire to understand others before judging them, a willingness to listen to the stories of others before telling my own. By placing her needs behind the needs of others she has become more valuable than the lot combined. Others may fall apart and it is her strength that will be there when they need rebuilding.
There is always one who is able to stand and face the fire, and no matter how much it burns they refuse to shy away. She is the one who has held back the flames while I put myself together, and I can only hope that today I can take some of the weight off her shoulders. My smile is bright today because she believed that somewhere within me was a light. My light has always been her reflection, and I am forever grateful she was able to recognize that as long as she was with me I would never lose the light within. I still have it and now I share it as she shared it with me. And as hard as I try I will never be able to convey with words, not even 1200 of them, the importance and value that my mother has.
So Mom, I hope I can continue to make you proud and show you the love that you have always shown to me. I owe my life to you, and for that I will make every effort to make it a life full of love and laughter. Thank you for never letting me go.
All My Love,