You’ve always been a quiet woman, reserved, timid, patient. You’ve quested after truth, sacrificing in ways most people will never know or understand. You’ve loved honestly and created gracefully. It was in the stillness that surrounded you while you put pencil to paper to draw a portrait or a brush to canvas to paint a starlit sky that I remember feeling embraced by a serenity that could only be described as divine.
When I was in elementary school I participated in an art fair that was held in the school’s gym. I don’t remember who the judges were or what my classmates made. I don’t even remember who got first prize. What I do remember consists of two moments and these two moments define who you are in my eyes.
The idea for the project was yours, you were always thinking of innovative ways to organize and beautify our lives. You came up with the idea of a dignified framed wall calendar to keep track of birthdays. A simple idea, but one you believed in, were excited by, and 100% committed to seeing through. You designed it, provided the materials, and did all of the work. One night I stood in the doorway of your art room staring at you as you sat at your drafting table, with a single lamp on above your head, working on that calendar with such diligence, such devotion, and such care and focus that you might as well have been writing the next great novel or putting the finishing touches on the newest award-winning symphony concerto. You appeared before my eyes as an angel, elegant in your poise, graceful in your movements, present to your masterpiece, and inspired by something greater than yourself. Always the artist you were … and always will be.
You are someone who is able to see the latent potentiality within the ordinary. You look with the eye of inner vision at the world and grasp for that which is true and beautiful, pure and whole. You draw on inspirational forces when you create—whether weeding your flower garden, arranging the décor of a room, creating the atmosphere at a youth gathering or summer school, holding space for your clients to feel welcome and supported, or envisioning your daughter’s craft for the art fair.
By the time the fair came around we walked into the gym and looked at all the wonderful creations. When we came to our entry and saw a ribbon on it, you immediately turned to me and with a glance of pure joy exclaimed, “Lindsey! You won!” I don’t know if words will ever be able to convey what I felt in that moment or what I feel today. Here you were—the innovator, the designer, the creator, the one who put in all the effort, the time, the resources—with absolute detachment and glee, congratulating me on my achievement. Such selflessness! You literally felt no attachment to the hours of work you had put into the project, it didn’t occur to you to take any credit for what you, alone, had done. Not for one second did you desire any recognition. Your joy was in seeing my joy. Your joy has always been in witnessing the joy of others.
What a gift mom. What a gift you are to this world. This small example from my childhood serves as a metaphor for how you live your life, day by day. You radiant humility, and have the capacity to teach us all what true compassion and servitude are; you do this without any awareness of your self. This is what I find most miraculous. You continually inspire my soul to greater and truer heights of service, and I would not be where I am today without you.
I asked Grandma to share with me her thoughts on seeing you as a mother, here’s what she had to say:
Proud. I am thinking back to watching her give her little baby … you … a bath in the upstairs sink. She was tender and loving towards you. She always showed unmistakeable love. When Kelsey had been in hospital when she was in high school, she sat beside her on the floor and spoon fed her soup. She made you creative Halloween costumes. I wasn’t there on a daily basis of course, but I drove to see you once a month when you were little. I don’t know … when your children become parents, you are once again struck with the continuity of life. When I was a mother of little children, I tried to create memories for them … do things that would stay with them. I could see it worked. I always have said that your mother could do anything I could do, but do it better.
It’s so true, your love is unmistakable, it is constant, gentle, nurturing, and supportive. Many times throughout my adult life you’ve said that you regret any pain your mistakes as a mother may have caused me. Mom. What I am about to say is very important. Hear me when I say this: when you look at me with pride in your eyes, try to recognize that what you see in me that brings you such joy, that pleases you to no end, is merely a reflection of you. Know that were it not for your example of steadfastness, radiant acquiescence, and selflessness, I would not be the woman I am today. That which you love in me, I learned from you.
Momma, beyond all of this, beyond the moments we’ve shared, the love, the laughter, the bruised knees and egos, the adventures and expeditions, there is one truth that must be shared. Not only did you bring me into this world, but you paved the way for me into the next, and for that I am eternally grateful.
I love you, more than you can possibly know.
Your little lindsey
I am not sure I have ever sat down with the intention of meditating on our relationship. Yet, what I have found in my reflection is the realization that if humanity is to experience love, harmony, balance, justice, and lasting peace, it starts first with mothers. I think of you, the mothers I know, the mothers to be, the grandmothers and great grandmothers watching over us every day. In each case I envision serenity, warmth, care and unconditional love. It is safe to say the world could use a bit more of the aforementioned.
The first story that comes to mind when I think about us is from Buffalo Lake at the Meyer Mansion. I had just returned from what I am certain was an epic tubbing experience (uncle Dale was most likely driving the boat like a wild man) and I quickly, with great excitement, ripped open a box of Gobstoppers. Yet, there was one problem, my wet feet started to slip on your lawn chair, I fell backwards, took a deep breath in fear, and then it hit me … I was choking. We locked eyes and like the sixth sense you had, you picked me up and immediately performed the Heimlich maneuver. It seemed to last for over an hour. Yet, never once did you doubt your ability to care for me in that moment. I remember being feeling scared, vulnerable, and frankly overwhelmed. There were cries to call 911, bystanders looking on with anxiety, and there I was in your arms. You might say, to this day, I have yet to leave them.
A mothers relationship with their child is nearly impossible to describe. And, when Lindsey and I set out on a journey to do just that, I knew that I would find difficultly putting words to paper. So, I called in the reinforcements. And, what I want to share with you is a note from your mother, about you.
In Luke 1:37 it is written, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” I have always felt a passion for caring for babies and people in need, especially when it had to do with my dear grandchildren. I have always felt it was a mother’s duty to be available when needed–no excuses. I see this in your mother as well. I feel as though she has acquired some of these attributes from me. She is very observing and kind, and her gift of extending love is a special talent. Caring for the family … she knew how important it was to receive a good education, for herself and her children. How proud she was when you were so very active in sports and music. Whenever your mother needed someone, she would either call and talk to dad and me or just come right over. This is the same in your family. The door to your home is always open, where friends and relatives gather. We are always greeted with love and treated with dignity. My love for her, is helping me care for her dad. It is an active love, passed on by others to heal, to comfort, to console, to forgive, to remove pain. It is love that God offers us, and it is love that He demands from us, for each other. As I have loved you, so must you love one another. May God bless this awesome family. Love, Mother
I found her postscript especially powerful. She wrote,
We are companions on this journey, breaking bread and sharing life. And, in the love we share with one another, we believe in God. We have been gifted with each other … to walk humbly with God.
From one generation to another, we cannot help but find truth in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Writings. He wrote,
For mothers are the first educators, the first mentors; and truly it is the mothers who determine the happiness, the future greatness, the courteous ways and learning and judgement, the understanding and the faith of their little ones. Selections From the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
As the saying goes, there has never been, nor will there ever be, anything quite so special as the love between a mother and a son. What you taught me as my educator and mentor are the attributes of God you most represent. You are forgiving, generous, loving, all perceiving, all wise, the great assister, bestower, concealer, creator, confirmer, dispeller of afflictions, gracious, healer, whose patience and protection is unconstrained.
In The Promulgation of Universal Peace ‘Abdu’l-Baha writes,
According to the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh the family, being a human unit, must be educated according to the rules of sanctity. All the virtues must be taught in the family. The integrity of the family bond must be constantly considered, and the rights of the individual members must not be transgressed … All these rights and prerogatives must be conserved, yet the unity of the family must be sustained. The injury of one shall be considered the injury of all; the comfort of each, the comfort of all; the honor of one, the honor of all.
Mom, you establish equality, stand to comfort us at the expense of your own ease, and work tirelessly to establish and sustain unity in the family. And, above all of this, when I really sit with myself and attempt to share openly, I find myself most thankful for your support on my journey as I walk humbly with God. I now only hope to live up to the words of Bahá’u’lláh,
The fruits that best befit the tree of human life are trustworthiness and godliness, truthfulness and sincerity; but greater than all, after recognition of the unity of God, praised and glorified be He, is regard for the rights that are due to one’s parents. This teaching hath been mentioned in all the Books of God, and reaffirmed by the Most Exalted Pen. Consider that which the Merciful Lord hath revealed in the Qur’án, exalted are His words: “Worship ye God, join with Him no peer or likeness; and show forth kindliness and charity towards your parents…” Observe how loving-kindness to one’s parents hath been linked to recognition of the one true God! Happy they who are endued with true wisdom and understanding, who see and perceive, who read and understand, and who observe that which God hath revealed in the Holy Books of old, and in this incomparable and wondrous Tablet.” –The Kitáb-i-Aqdas
To close, as I think about that day at the cabin, Grandma’s words, you as my first educator, the unity you establish in the family, and my recognition of the One True God, may I always remember that “paradise lies at the feet of [my] mother.”
I love you mom.