The family station wagon driven by the mother of five headed home for what was probably the umpteenth time that week.
Mom and I were alone, and for some long-forgotten reason, I was upset.
I’m not certain how old I was. Fourteen? Fifteen? What I do know is that I began telling her about some perceived injustice I had suffered in my day, expecting Mom to pour streams of sympathy on the wounded emotions of her little girl.
As we passed the tall, slender palm trees in the median lined up like graceful dancers on a stage, my mother surprised me with the firmly spoken words, “Becks, you’ve got to learn to roll with the punches.”
I don’t remember anything else about the ride home that day except for two things: For a brief moment I was taken aback by her lack of sympathy, and then almost immediately, her advice struck a chord deep within my impressionable young mind.
“Becks, you’ve got to learn to roll with the punches.” I can still see her resolute profile as she stared straight ahead and became more like a boxing coach than the Southern belle I knew so well.
I quickly adapted mom’s advice for the “punches” life doles out on all of us, and I’ve been rolling ever since.
My mother passed away 17 years ago, and I still long for her embrace. Sometimes when I’m facing a difficult situation, I close my eyes and scroll through the memories of our many conversations, searching for her voice.
As I strive to apply her words of wisdom, I also look for opportunities to pass them on to my own children, even though they too are now adults. My prayer is that they continue to heed the advice when appropriate, so that the lessons from my mom, and her mom, and those who came before, will continue to bless generations to come.
Mom was at once both immensely loving and full of great expectations for her offspring. We always knew her arms and heart were open to us, but we also knew that whining would get us nowhere with this incredibly optimistic woman.
My siblings and I have often referred to Mom as the original “can-do” woman. No challenge was too big, no problem insurmountable. She was generous, kind to everyone, and had a marvelous sense of humor. She often smiled for the sake of others even when she didn’t feel like it. Mom faced life filled with endless enthusiasm, high energy and a resolve to accomplish her goals with excellence. And she expected us to approach the world that way too.
One particular “Mom phrase” that has served me well throughout my life’s journey is “Bloom where you’re planted.” I have recalled this admonition many times and looked for opportunities to bloom in the midst of less-than-perfect circumstances — from being a newlywed in a town where I knew no one, while changing what seemed like millions of diapers for my three babies, amid challenging professional projects and when serving in positions that were great honors but in which I felt wholly inadequate.
It seems Mom had advice for every situation. When I was a teenager starting to date, she reminded me that I am a child of God and have great value, and that to give myself to any boy before marriage would tarnish the beauty God placed within me. As a young woman on my own, I remember calling Mom on several occasions when I faced difficult decisions. Her sweet voice on the other end of the line always gently said, “Have you prayed about it? Just ask God to show you.” And when I prayed, He always did.
When I was disappointed or overly tired but still had work to do, it was Mom who told me that if I would force a smile onto my face, it would — somehow — actually make me feel a little better and brighten the room for anyone around. It still does.
In honor of the great woman I had the privilege to call “Mom,” I offer this reminder to all mothers: your advice matters. Although you may not always see the evidence, your words will echo across the years in the hearts and minds of your children and perhaps to generations yet unborn. Choose them carefully, share them lovingly.
Have a wonderful Mother’s Day.
• Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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