When my husband and I built our house many years ago I did my best to share the experience with my mother. But as many mother-daughter relationships go, ours is probably fairly normal. We have our moments of extreme closeness and times of growing and stretching (i.e. not so much closeness). It seemed to me that the time during which I built my home was one of those growing and stretching times in our relationship. Of course, looking back, it is easy for me to see that while I chose to grow and stretch (i.e. not listen to my mother), my mother was displaying extreme closeness in her words and manner towards me, her oldest, stubborn daughter.
You see, every time my husband and I made a decision and my mother was given the information by me, or came across it in a conversation with one of my sisters, well, my mom would say, “How are you going to clean that?” It was literally what she said when she discovered our choice for windows, window coverings, tile, bathtub enclosures, and the numerous six-panel doors that enclose our closets. Sometimes her voice would rise incredulously. During those times what I would hear was, “Are you crazy? Who let you be in charge?” But what my mother was really saying was, “Honey, you are young and energetic now but in a dozen years time it will be difficult for you to maintain _____ (fill in the blank).”
Today, as I teetered precariously on the edge of the tub to reach across and clean a soap dish built way too high for me to reach to clean (because I was adamant that my boys would grow and the height of the ceramic soap dish would be perfect and who cared about cleaning it), I felt a bit ashamed at having not listened to my mother. Sure, sure, I realize that this is part of any mother-daughter relationship and yet I have no real, honest to goodness, I could say it to God, sort of defense. My boys were pre-teens at the time and I thought I had a fairly good handle on mothering. I still wasn’t able to look out into the unknown future and fathom a time where my knees would crack and my back would ache and I would be facing a house full of six-panel doors to clean. My mother, however, was able to do just that. And like all good mothers, she voiced her concern over these things that were completely off my radar. Like all good mothers, mine boldly said things that needed to be said. And she took my disdain in stride. It was, after all, her job to be my mom and she did so in love and compassion. Even at my then age of, well, old enough to know better, my mom was being my mom. She turns 70 this month and not a day goes by where I don’t realize how blessed I am that she has always decided to ask the tough questions, even when I was old enough to have asked them myself.
I had the very good fortune to participate in a woman’s conference last week with Heidi Hess Saxton. Heidi spoke of her own Catholic conversion and of the time during which she held Mother Mary at arm’s length. It was a beautiful story of a mother’s unending love and ability to “be there” even when Heidi chose to ignore this blessed woman. As Heidi points out, Mary always directs us to her Son. There’s nothing about Mary’s mission that is covert. In fact, I can’t help but feel that in just this way she is like all earthly mothers, saying what needs to be said — even amidst our disdain. Like all good mothers, Mary boldly encourages us in our earthly journeys. Certainly we live in a world where our daily walk with Christ isn’t always the easy path. But Mary doesn’t change her message: “Do what he tells you to do.” The Blessed Mother has a vision that extends well beyond anything we can fathom and in her understanding of our eternal life; she reaches out to us, to guide us, to point us to our Savior. Mary makes us ask the tough questions about our faith and our relationship with Christ; and she does it lovingly and with compassion. She does so knowing that even if we are old enough to ask the tough questions of ourselves, they still ought to be asked from her heavenly perspective.
This Mother’s Day I encourage everyone to celebrate in a special way. Heidi has written a beautiful book, Behold Your Mother. This prayer-filled book will allow you, your mom, and all your friends and family members who are mothers to enjoy many hours of prayer and reflection on Mother Mary — to understand how she leads us to Jesus and to know the blessings we, too, have as mothers ourselves. Unlike a card that may be enjoyed for a day or a week, this is a book for today, tomorrow, and years to come and will be a blessing to all who receive it. Happy Mother’s Day!