I have always processed my emotions through my writing. Recently in my creative writing class we read the poem The Lanyard by Billy Collins. The piece below is my response to the poem.
A difficult truth to face is that there is virtually nothing we can give to our mothers that will suitably recompense them for all they have done for us. No lanyard, no plaster of Paris handprint, no coupon book of hugs is ever equal to all that our mothers do for us. I’m not saying that our mothers don’t appreciate these gifts – they do. But their appreciation is just one more example of the way they mother us.
A mother’s goal is to give her child both roots and wings; to endow her offspring with both humility and confidence; to teach her young to love and dream and dare. She exults when we triumph and mourns when we falter.
A mother deals with the pains of unrequited love – particularly from her adolescent offspring. As a species we can be remarkably selfish. It’s all about me, my, mine, I, I, I. We spend years focused solely on ourselves, never uttering a plural or collective pronoun and still our mothers love us. We rage against restrictions, we complain about expectations, then turn around and demand satisfaction from the target of our ire.
Mothers give all they have and all they are to nurture their children – and we give them a lanyard.
I think the greatest gift I ever gave my mother was her death. It sounds harsh, but it is grounded in a painful reality. I could have held on. I could have demanded extraordinary measures; in the deepest, most selfish part of myself I sure wanted to. But I didn’t.
Instead, I thought about the woman who had done and been so much for me over my lifetime. I looked inward at a video playback of lessons learned – lessons she taught through her patience, her wisdom, her strength, and her love. How could I be any less for her than she had always been for me?
And so I made the most difficult decision I will probably ever face. A decision, that in retrospect, I can see she had been preparing me to make for my entire life. A decision, rooted in her strength and wisdom, to love another more than myself. A decision, however painful, to live up to and into the person she believed me to be.
Rest in peace, Mom.