Saturday, May 8, 2010

Our Mothers Should be Honored as Heroes

Ordinary Heroes

This article I wrote was published in Catholic Online to honour my own mother, and mothers everywhere.

Though it is primarily about my own mother, it touches on a few other mothers who have been instrumental in big and small ways in helping me grow in faith and love, My Dear Wife, Christina, and my cousins Maureen and Anne.  I also mention in the article my sister Jane, who though not a part of the particular story is my best female friend beside My Dear Wife.  She is a daughter, loved by the mother of the following story, and a mother in her own right, of three fine young adults.  Let us honour mothers on this special day, but let us not forget the sacrifices that they have made on a daily basis to bring life to others.
Without a Mother to carry us in her womb, we would never have seen the light of day.  In a society that has taken to devalue the role of a Mother in pregnancy, in nurturing young life, and in guiding her child along the path of formation, they who take on this vocation should be honoured as heroes.

LONDON, ONTARIO.  I have written previously about my mother and father, as ordinary heroes, and as a couple they were; but my mother was an ordinary hero in her own right.  However, it took another mother, My Dear Wife, to open my eyes to seeing her heroism, and it took two other mothers, two of my first cousins, to see her in her last moments as God saw her.

My mother, Kathleen Leona (Kay) Brandon (nee Sweet) was a feisty woman.  In 1950 and 1953, she and my dad had two children, me first, and my sister followed along after.  As children, Mom was in the home, and active in the lives of her family.  But, I did not come to accept her and really love her as MY Mother until later in life.

My sister and I always found our father easy to love, and our mother, well . . . not so much.  If my mother had an opinion, and she usually did, you were welcome to it.

After my father, her life partner, the man she adored, cared for, and shared everything with passed away, she was lonely.  I don't think that my sister or I ever thought our Mom did not love us, but after she lost the guiding hand of my father, she became more irritable, and provocative with her sharing of opinions.  She also presented her opinions as though they had come straight from God's lips to her ears, and then on to us.  At least, that is how a man carrying his own baggage looked upon it.

But, one evening, My Dear Wife taught me a lesson that I will never forget, and which gave me new perspective on my mother and helped me to accept her, and see her a little as God saw her, as one of his own, and as a mother who had always done and continued to do the best she could for her children.

My Dear Wife and I had visited my Mom at her home in north London this particular evening, and as usual, the conversation had harshly spoken opinions clashing against each other.  Though it might be true that my mother was more often than not the instigator of the stuffing of opinions down the other's throat than I was, I was no shrinking violet, and gave as good (or bad, truth be told) as I got.

After the usual verbal slug fest, we departed and as we got into our car to leave, My Dear Wife, Christina turned to me and started to cry.  She told me that my mother loved me, and that I was treating her with disrespect.  I sputtered about how she held her own, and that that was the way we always talked to each other.  Excuses, really.  No meaningful input on my part.  But, over night, the Lord worked on me, and Christina's sadness and hurt at how I treated my mother brought me to make a change in how I responded to my mother.

Instantaneously I became a perfect son, respectful and solicitous always.  OK, I made that up.  But, I did accept my mother from that time on, and at times when I started to respond to her opinions that I objected to, I usually was respectful, and when I was not, I was aware of my own actions, and took responsibility for them.  Miraculously something happened.  As I treated  my mother with more respect, she softened, not so as to spoil that feistiness that we all loved about her,but just smoothed out the edges, as she had done when my father was alive.

My mother was always generous with her time and money.   Though she and my father were not wealthy, they gave financial assistance to family members and others in need as they could, with open hearts.  But, I am sitting in the basement of my mother's last gift to us as I write this, and the circumstance of that is worthy of sharing as it is the story of a mother's last act of love on this earth, and I hope a son's recognition of how much she was/is loved, and is missed.

My Dear Wife and I had separated for a time.  After a few months apart, we started to work on our relationship again, getting counseling help, and spending a lot of time together.  When we finally decided that it was time to get back together, we went searching for a house to live in.  On a Sunday afternoon we found this house, and bought it over a period of several hours.  However, we forgot to take cell phones with us that day, and so when we got home late that evening, there was a voice mail message from my cousin Maureen, a nurse, who when visiting my then 85 year old mother that afternoon had seen something wrong, and got her admitted to hospital immediately.

On Monday, we went up to the hospital to see her, and she was in good spirits.  We told her why we had not been able to be reached the previous day, and she was excited to hear about our new home, and getting our lives back together.  She asked to see pictures of it, and the next day, April 5, 2005, which was her birthday, we came with cake, flowers, and cards to celebrate, and we brought her the listing document with pictures attached. 

I will never forget her saying to us both, that she wished that she could have bought the house for us, and how prophetic those words would become.

By Wednesday, her condition was so serious that the doctors knew there was nothing they could do for her.  That evening we went back to the hospital, and my cousin Maureen, and her youngest sister Anne were there as well.   One doctor said that Mom was not doing well, and if anything happened, or was about to, that he would call us to let us know.  My cousins asked to be called if anything was up.  Christina and I were somewhat in shock, and refused to believe that death was imminent.

Near midnight, the phone rang, and the doctor urged us to come back to the hospital.  We called Maureen, and she and Anne met us at Mom's room.  Mom had slipped into a coma, and was not aware of our presence.  We arranged for the on call priest to come and give her the Sacrament of the Sick, and then the nurses asked to have some time to make Mom more comfortable.

The four of us sat down the hall and tried to come to grips with what was happening.  When we were allowed to go back into the room, we gathered around My Mother's bed, and Maureen, I think, suggested that we pray the Hail Mary, Glory Be, and the Our Father for her.  I held my Mother's left hand with my right hand, and Christina's with my left as we prayed.  Maureen and Anne were on the other side doing the same.

A peace descended upon us as we prayed, and when we said the "Amen" of the Our Father, we all witnessed Mom's spirit leaving her body, and going to be in heaven with Jesus, and my father.  There are very few things that have happened in my life of which I am more certain.

Mom's estate was in very good order, which was a tribute to her organizational skills, and so it was settled prior to our taking possession of our new house.  Oh, and the money that she left us in her will paid the difference between our equity and cost of it.  She did buy us the house.

Without my mother, and her constant unique love for me, I would not be the man I am today.  Without the love of My Dear Wife, a mother as well, I would not be the man I am today.  Without the interactions with other mothers I encounter in my daily journey, like my two cousins in this particular story, and my sister, a special mother in her own right, I would not be the man I am today.  And I hope that the man I am today is worthy of the love that they have all shown me over the years.

God Bless You, Mother and all mothers.

Michael Brandon is a Canadian Catholic, in love with God in His three persons, and in love with his wife and soul mate.  He is also the father of three, step father of three, and step grandfather to 2 1/3.   He and his wife spend part of winters keeping warm in sunny Arizona.  You can visit him at his blog site Freedom Through Truth
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