Mother’s Day Talk Orillia Star of Hope Spiritualist Church.
May 9, 2016
I want to wish all of you many blessings for a Happy Mothers Day!
Today we are here to celebrate lives, heal breaches, and renew commitments to our mothers and one another.
My grandmother came to this country in 1927. She made the wrenching decision to leave her young son to be raised by his father. She was looking for an opportunity to make better life for herself and her large extended family. It was twelve years before she was reunited with her son. It was nearly eight more years before she was able to bring him and his wife, my mother, and two children to Canada. I was one of those two children, little more than a baby.
The lives we lived as a family helped to shape my character. The multicultural community in which I was raised helped to inform and shape my knowledge of life. I have believed, for as long as I can remember that my destiny was set in motion, before I was born. What I learned from my Grandmother was that nothing was impossible. How much effort I put into anything would yield results equal to the effort. Sage advice, which I have understood and acted on.
I started my working life by travelling to England to study nursing. Four years later, Diploma in one hand and a new husband in the other, we moved to Jamaica, the land of my birth, for seven years. In 1976, we returned home with our two children and I settled into the rigors of being a wife, mother and career person. If you ask me what was most important to me personally, it was to experience and to challenge myself about anything and everything then put my learning to work. As a mother I wanted to pass on those same values to my children and grandchildren. In the culture of my family, getting an education first, was considered the best opportunity to start building a good life.
Thanks to that instilled value from my parents and grandparents, I have enjoyed many career opportunities and I have loved every one of them. Nursing is still my primary job and fills my heart every day. Nursing has paved the way for me to be in touch with people from all over the world and hear stories which inspire me. I sincerely believe that human contact feeds the spirit. My work as an Interfaith Minister has taught me how to draw people together to share ritual service in joy and in sorrow. This is a powerful and meaningful way to raise the energy of humanity to spiritual levels.
But today, I am here to share in the joy and celebration of these three words, Mother as a person, Mothering as an art and Mothered as a gift. I must say that this was a particularly difficult topic for me, despite growing up with my mother, and a grandmother close by. I have also worked for 35 years with mothers and babies in birthing. I have seen this art of mothering from many different perspectives. At the core of mother’s day is The Mother and since mine has passed away, I have moved to place where peace of mind over her loss, first to Alzheimer’s, then transition, comes from celebrating the act of mothering and appreciating what that means.
All the words I said in my introduction are especially important this year. I will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of my travel to England to begin my nursing career. I remember in July of 1966, leaving my parents, siblings, grandparents and friends to get on a plane and travel thousands of miles from everything I had ever known to pursue a dream. The reason why I was able to do that with an open mind and heart was because of my mother.
In this day and age, a working mother is the norm but in my childhood, during the 1950’s it was different. Almost all of my peers had stay-at-home mothers. I went to their houses after school and there was Mama in the kitchen. After school snack were prepared and given with a loving hug. I might have been resentful but I thought my mom was pretty special.
I remember when she went back to school to become a nurse even though she had three small children. When my grandmother, who also worked, was not available to babysit us, we went with my mother while she made her rounds as a public health nurse. Long before I even understood what chronic sickness and life altering disabilities meant, I was helping to make people laugh, sharing a little of my life and my dreams for curious patients, some of whom would never have children. Most importantly, I was watching my mother as she did her work. How cool was that? Now fifty years later they have a designated day called ‘take your child to work’
My mother was a role model for me and my sister. It took some years for me to understand what that meant but as I look back now on the day when I got on that plane in my high heels and business-like suit, I can thank my mother for opening my eyes to other possibilities beyond, marriage and children.
Please don’t think that career role modelling was the only gift I got from my mother. I was also mothered. She washed and styled my hair. My sister and I were dressed alike for parties even though there was a four year difference in our ages. She diagnosed and gave me medicine when I was sick, listened and provided advice, protected me from harm, taught me right from wrong, gave me skills to manage my money, made sure I could cook a decent meal. We had to do laundry and help keep the house clean. My mother arranged for me to learn to play music, sing hymns in church, perform in public and feel no fear whether I helped the poorest or the richest and anyone in between. Both of my parents were also social activists and taught me the responsibility of being a good citizen. Watching with my little girls eyes as my mother went back to school as an adult, gave me the courage to do the same.
When I think back on all of those amazing skills she taught me, I realized that to some extent mothers and mothering were the forerunner of all these careers. Mothers taught everything! Banking, cooking, cleaning, nursing, teaching, protection, civil duties…. All of the person to person jobs in the world must have evolved from the ancient role of mother. That was an eye opener for me and yet another opportunity to appreciate the art of mothering. When I imagine that my mother was born just thirteen years into the last century, when women were still wearing ankle length dresses, hats and gloves, it is amazing that she could have been so forward thinking. Even more so, when you consider that she was a late baby, second last of ten. Her own mother, my maternal grandmother was born in 1872. So her push for a career, set against the backdrop of her times was remarkable.
I have shared my story with you, not to diminish or make comparisons to other stories of wonderful mothers whose children have made them just as proud as my mother was of me. As we celebrate this day, I would ask each of you to think back on your years and see something which you never noted before. Something that made your mother a standout, or just a list of all the things she did to keep you safe and happy and share it.
Even in challenging households, and I have seen many in the course of my career, there was something to be gained from the experience. Many children have been forced to grow up before their time because the mother is physically or emotionally unavailable. And while this may have been harsh, many learned to be self-sufficient at a very early age, taking care of other siblings, and the home. I have heard these stories over and over. But what I have also seen is that these children, now adults, who may look back in sorrow and regret, or even anger, they have learned how to cherish, love and heal their inner child so that they may feel mothered.
While I offer praise and thanks for the wonderful role of mothers, I realize it begs the question, which isn’t really a question, but the words ‘what about’ come to mind. This invites an inevitable comparison. Indeed we must honour and praise women who are biological mothers but what about those wonderful women who cannot give birth, who help out as the unmarried aunt, or those who adopt or foster children? They also deserve our respect and admiration. And, what about those women who are unable to give birth or adopt but choose to nurture an idea into fruition, build, create, or support projects in communities. In many ways they are also mothering.
Last but not least, I also want to pay homage to those career people who spend periods of time mothering our children, our family and friends. Teachers, child care and personal support workers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, police: These are all careers which I believe, have evolved out of mothering. In each person there is the capacity to give a little of ourselves to another and take on the role of mothering for a time. We thank them and honour them too.
May the blessings of God as Mother, be with you. May the support of God, as Father, be with you and may Spirit, breath of life, guide and heal you always and in all ways. Amen