A Tribute to My Mom
Saturday, June 27, 2009
For endless summers, my mom would hold onto my innertube as we floated, before reaching for my hand and holding it under the water. When we would begin to float away, my mother would yell back at the cabin, to anyone, to no one, “Pick us up in an hour. Just look for us downstream and honk!”
And we’d float downstream, my mother talking, as she loved to do, about nothing in particular, but really about everything.
“Where are we going, mom?” I’d ask when I was young.
She’d lift a hand out of the creek, water dripping off her arm, the sun glistening off her tan, and she’d point downstream, into the horizon, into the sun.
“Heaven!” she would tell me.
It was on these seemingly innocent float trips with my mom that I ended up learning some of the greatest lessons of my life, where I learned what a strong, smart, heroic woman my mother was, when I began to know my mom as a person and not just a mother.
My mother used to tell me how much she loved her job as a nurse. She followed her true passion and relished helping to heal others. It was her calling. She used to tell me as we floated, “When you follow your passion, you will never work a day in your life.” It was a lesson I did not learn until I hit 40 and found I hated what I did for a living. My mother said, on a float trip when I was in my 30s, “Follow your passion, and your dreams will come true.”
On our floats, my mother never gossiped, never said an ill word about another person. She lived with true grace and dignity, a lesson I, sadly, still often fail.
My mother always told me she loved me as we floated, and she would lean over to hug me freely, telling me to hug back tightly, and she taught me that – even for a man – it was a strength, not a weakness, to show your emotions.
And, after my brother’s death, my mom taught me about the power of faith, that even in the face of unimaginable tragedy, you must have hope, and a faith in God.
And, it was in those years after Todd died, that my mother taught me about that power of faith, the power of love, the power of parenting. I remember a float trip we took when I was in high school, when I was terrified of leaving her to go to college – I did not want to leave her alone – and I could sense she was terrified of having me go.
“I can go to college here,” I told her. “Live at home with you.”
And she told me, as we floated, that there would be no discussion, that I could not be afraid to live, that I had to go out and change the world, and that I would always be with her, and that she would always be with me. And that incredible strength and fortitude lives on in me today.
Mostly, I think, on those floats, that my mother taught me how to laugh, and how to tell a great story. Her unconditional love and acceptance changed my life, and will until the day I am reunited with her.
So, I will end with the story that my mom first told me, only now realizing just how true it was: Right now, I can picture my mother in heaven, surrounded by her family, floating on a never-ending creek, her butt stuck through a golden innertube. And one day when I join her, I know I will ask her, as we float, where we are going. And she will tell me, “Nowhere, Wade. We’re home. We’re in heaven.”