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March 02, 2018

Mom's Enduring Lessons of Love and Devotion

I've been thinking about my mom a lot lately.

Gone for over 15 years now, I can still see her smile and feel her all-encompassing warm embrace.

Mom was vivacious, generous and brilliant — and she had a delightfully zany sense of humor. Boy, how she could make me laugh!

My thoughts are full of mom because my own daughter is expecting her first baby any day now. It's an incredible blessing to witness a new generation of family being born. To know that a new blood line that has never before existed has been created. To realize that we are all finally going to meet this tiny person who looks a bit like my daughter and a bit like her husband.

As I gleefully squealed a few days ago while pointing to her swollen belly, "I just can't wait to see who's in there!"

I finally understand my mom's irrepressible joy when I told her I was pregnant so many years ago. When I called to let her know that I was in labor, she hopped in the car and drove — or rather, flew — the 16 hours from Florida to D.C., stopping only for gas. She went straight to the hospital, expecting to see a new grandchild and a very tired, happy new mommy.

But I remained in hard labor for another 18 hours before the doctors finally decided to do a C-section. Mom kept vigil with my sweet, somewhat distraught, hubby the entire time. Although definitely not in the mood to talk, I found immense comfort in just knowing that she was there.

Mom made that same drive to be with me for two more babies, and each time she stayed as long as I needed after delivery. She made me feel special, serving me breakfast in bed, cooking up a storm, washing tons of laundry, grocery shopping, and doing a thousand other things so my husband and I could concentrate on our growing family and getting to know the new, precious little person in our lives.

Mom also assured me that I could "do this." As she prepared to return home that first time, I apprehensively asked, "But how will I know what to do after you leave?" Mom just chuckled and said, "They come with instructions! You just keep his tummy full, his bottom dry, and lavish him with love."

And she was right, as Mom so often was. She was also the very best teacher in how to lavish a child in love.

I can't help but wonder if I thanked Mom enough for loving me so completely.

Mom and I were very, very close — the best of friends. Even throughout my teen years we always had a great relationship. Although she was my greatest fan, she was also my sternest teacher. One simply did not thwart my mother. And like most children in those days, I knew to honor and respect my parents; it was as natural and expected as breathing. But far more than honoring or respecting my mother, I absolutely adored her.

Still, I wonder, was my love consistently evident? Or did I leave her craving more as I gradually succumbed to the busyness of my own life?

All I knew with each new stage was that I always felt free to be me. The woman who gave me life, who nurtured and loved me so immensely, also opened her hands and let me fly away ever further from her warm embrace with each passing year.

And such is the paradox of purposeful parenting: we rejoice in our child's growing independence even as it rips our heart out.

Tonight as I write this, I wait expectantly for that phone call from my own daughter, with news that she and her hubby are on their way to the hospital.

Just like my mom, I will be present when my daughter labors. My desire is to be that silent, steady force in the room that my mom was for me, and to know that my daughter and her husband feel the peace and power that come with a mother's unceasing prayers.

As we all wait to meet this precious child fashioned by the hands of the Creator of the universe, and in His image, I am very cognizant that my own hands must continue to open.

Although I will stay to help my daughter through her first days of motherhood, all too soon I will have to go. And when I do, I will again be thinking of my mom as I remind my girl to lavish her child in love.

This column first appeared in The Washington Times

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