Notes from a Friar: A Mother’s Love

Mother and son show affection

If you think about it, one word might summarize how you could describe “mother love.” That word would be “nurturer.” Consider this: From the moment of conception, a mother feeds the fetus and developing baby within her. After the birth, mothers nurse their infants, and they keep feeding them and other children for two decades or more. Yes, many mothers wash and clean, but providing food is what they do with the most love they have. In round numbers, cooking for 20 years (including Mother’s Day, of course) means that moms prepare literally thousands of meals. And it is a common truth that, if you blindfold a woman’s husband and children, they can pick out her potato salad, deviled eggs and baked beans from a table of 20 other moms’ cooking. Mom’s is the best.

I have always felt that if a mother could do one last thing on earth for her family, she would not preach a sermon to them; nor would she give them directions as to how to live their lives. I have a feeling that her last act, if she was capable, would be to say, “Listen, dear ones, just sit down at the table because I want to cook you the best meal you ever had.” Nurture and feed: It’s what moms do best.

A Mother’s Healing Power

The other thing mothers possess is healing power. A mother’s kiss has healed more skinned knees and stubbed toes than you can count. Broken hearts are harder to heal, but the best chance you have is for Mom to hold you. She feels the hurt, too, and wants to take a little bit of it on herself.

I have very distinct memories when, as a young boy of six or seven in the 1940s, I had a bad head cold, chest cold and cough. My mom would put me to bed for the night and then begin her powerful medical care. She would take a big of jar Vick’s VapoRub and lather my chest, throat and around my nose with it. And then she would take a flannel cloth that she had heated in the oven and put it on my chest. Next, she would button my flannel pajamas right up to my neck and pull the covers up to my chin.

She would then kiss me and say, “Good night, Jimmy. Sleep tight.” I would be left in my bedroom that was vaporized with Vicks and its magnificent odor. Even with a really bad cold, I felt so content and at peace. Talk about healing! I remember those occasions 70 years later as though they happened yesterday. Even today, when I smell Vick’s, I’m again filled with those feelings of a seven-year-old boy. There’s one thing I could never figure out, however: Mothers never seem to catch their kids’ colds. Maybe they are immune.

The death of our moms is surely one of the saddest days of our lives. I’ve often said that, in life, we have a thousand images of our loved ones. At their death, we have 10,000 images of them.

Long-forgotten incidents and events come to mind. They usually are not earth-shaking situations we remember; rather, it is just the little things that made our relationships with them so dear. Sometimes we feel a few regrets when we realize how much we loved them. We see so much more that we could have done. But moms would feel the same about themselves toward us.

Most wonderful, of course, is that our faith has a way of answering questions and helping us understand that their deaths and those of all our loved ones are not signs of an ending, but rather a new beginning for them. The separation is only physical, though that initially is very painful. Spiritually, we are never separated from them. That’s because the God we believe in and who revealed to us the truth about life, death and life eternal never separates people who love one another. God is love. Why would he separate loving people? Actually, they are closer than ever. We can’t see them, but they can see us. They can hear us and they still watch over us; that’s what mothers do! And our faith reminds us that there is a reunion waiting for us when we have completed our journey on earth. What a reunion that will be!

Personally, I know my mom and dad are always with me. Each morning at prayer, I say these words: “Dear Mom and Dad: Thank you for the gift of life you gave to Marianne (my sister) and me. Thank you for sharing your faith with us and supporting us in our vocations as priest and sister. Dear Lord, they deserve your special care. They gave us to you in our vocations, and so we now give them to you. Amen.”

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