Love's true meaning

By Sarah E. Reynolds | Feb 22, 2019

Ten years ago last week, Feb. 14, 2009, my mother died.

The anniversary adds a twinge of sadness to the romance of Valentine's Day. It's hard to believe Mom has been gone for 10 years, and yet, it also seems like she's been gone for eons. Time is funny that way.

She loved Valentine's Day, buying cards not only for my dad, but also for my brothers and me. She signed my dad's with her characteristic squiggly question mark, as if it would be a mystery who had put the card at his place at the breakfast table.

I still think of her quite often, when I'm watching the chickadees, goldfinches and cardinals that she loved to feed, when my eye is caught by a garden in bloom or wildflowers by the side of the road -- or lately, when I care for the cyclamen I bought at Christmas and have been quite proud to keep alive so far. Mom is in my thoughts when I play her piano or cook a meal.

There are so many times when I wish I could talk to her, or that I had asked her more questions while I could. What was it like to grow up in Gary, Ind., in the 1930s? How did she feel the first time she took the train across the country to go to college near Boston? Was it hard for her at 26 to have a 2-year-old (me) and a newborn, with a husband who was at work all day, five days a week?

What were her regrets? The things she was proudest of? Her happiest memories?

As I recall, she had the gift of contentment and the ability to make others feel at ease. Her warmth was genuine. She liked traveling with my father, but was happiest at home, in her garden. She loved having family around, and she also loved curling up in the evening with a book.

Mom and I didn't really understand each other when I was young; we grew into being friends well after I had graduated from college. She grew from being deeply distressed when I came out to her and my dad at 20 to welcoming the two long-term partners I've had with kindness and hospitality. From my childhood, when she worried that my shyness and lack of femininity would reflect badly on her mothering, to adulthood, when she came to appreciate me for who I am, we developed a closeness that meant a lot to both of us.

There were areas where we never saw eye to eye: she did not understand the importance of spirituality to me, and I would have preferred she stop smoking. But those things didn't get in the way of our affection for each other.

There is no question in my mind that if I could spend 10 minutes with someone close to me who has died, it would be my mom.

This Valentine's Day marked another sad anniversary: it has been a year since 17 students and staff were gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. As tragic as the massacre was, it seems even sadder, in a way, that the Parkland students who became activists for gun control have been treated with such a lack of compassion by adults who disagree with them.

These kids not only feared for their own lives in a place that should be as safe as their own home -- their school -- they saw their classmates and teachers murdered for no reason. Their plea to lawmakers to regulate the weapons that spew mass death in scores of places all over our country, to protect the young people who represent our country's future and those who prepare them for leadership, is a cry for help. It is valid and deserves respect.

It is wrong to treat these survivors of our country's addiction to violence with contempt, whatever your opinion about guns may be. It is wrong -- morally dishonest -- to impugn their motives, to doubt their experience, to behave as if they are of no account.

My mother was a woman of strong opinions, who let her views be known, at least within her immediate family, on many occasions. But she also knew how to rise above pettiness, how to put aside her judgments of others and treat them with warmth and kindness. I wish there were more like her these days.

It seems poignantly appropriate to remember the Parkland victims, and others we have lost, on Valentine's Day. May it be a reminder to us of what love is really all about.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Feb 23, 2019 15:19

Well said Sarah! Blessings!!!!



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