So. . . I’ve received new boxers from my mother each year well into my late 30’s. Yes, even years after I was married. There, I’ve said it! And I don’t mean the cheaper brands like Fruit of Loom, or walmart or . . . not that there is anything wrong with those. But these boxers are the nicer, softer, more stylish and expensive designer brands like Polo and Calvin Klein. I bet you have a different image of me now or you think of me as a “mama’s boy”. And you know, you would be partially right.
See, I left home when I was 18 and never looked back. Well, there was that one year after college when I went home for a year to figure out what the heck I wanted to do with my life, but other than that, for all intensive purposes, that was the last time I lived with my parents. And yet, whatever I was doing and wherever I’ve lived, this small package came to my door year after year, full of 5-7 new designer boxers. I may not have had money to buy designer clothes, but one thing was for sure, underneath my outer clothes, I was very couture.
These thoughts have been in my head because yesterday was Mother’s Day, and I miss my mother terribly from over 2000 miles away. Living in San Francisco, away from my parents who live an hour outside of Detroit, Michigan, we only get to see and embrace each other once or twice a year at the most. And my mother for the past 6-7 weeks has been ill. She’s had a bad case of gout for the past 4 weeks and just as she was recovering, she has contracted shingles which made her immobile again for the past 2 1/2 weeks. For a very active woman in her very youthful mid 70’s, this has been hell for her.
The gospel passage for this past Sunday’s lectionary is from the farewell discourse in the Gospel of John. In the midst of Jesus telling us just how much he loves us and just how much we are to love, in verse 11 he says this, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” As I read the lectionary passage this past week, this was the verse that struck me more than others. What joy was Jesus talking about? This was the discourse at the end of his life when he would be betrayed, humiliated and nailed to the cross. Where is the joy in the midst of all this suffering?
But then, just this past Wednesday, we received a package. I know what you are thinking. No, it was not several pieces of couture underwear. It was a box of 3D puzzles that my 7 year old son Ian has been wanting, a box that he saw when we visited my parents in Michigan 2 years ago. Now that he is a little older, they sent it to him with a little love letter plus $50 in cash for him to use. And use it he did. He’s been wanting a Ninjago Destiny Bounty Lego set for half a year now. He’s been saving his small allowance that we give him each week since January to buy this particular lego set. He only had two more weeks to go before he could afford it, but now he had more than enough. So this past Wednesday afternoon, he and I drove all over the Bay Area for over 1 1/2 hours to track down what he has been dreaming of for over 5 months.
As we were driving home, he called my mother. The excitement of his voice was palpable and yes, so was my mother’s voice on the speaker phone. Even in her weakened, depressed state, the joy of my mother for my son came through so clearly over the speakers of my iphone. My mother lives for her children and her grandchildren. She gave up so much to mother and raise her kids and now pours that same love onto her grandchildren. I can say that I’ve suffered some in my life, mostly of my own doing, but hearing the stories of my mother, I haven’t suffered one iota of what mother has gone through in her life. Yet love and joy exudes from her whenever she cares for her family and now her growing extended family.
Yesterday as part of the worship service, I asked the congregants to come forward, take a multicolored flower and invited them to say the name and/or a prayer for our mothers and/or mother figures. We ended this time by reciting a prayer that my friend and colleague Abby King Kaiser wrote in her blog about our mothers.
So I write this as a love letter to my mother and to our “mothering kind”, who cares, loves and nutures us, our families, our children, our congregations, our communities, our earth and our world. My deepest gratitude for all of you.