The holiday season is upon us. Thanksgiving is over, and we are preparing for Christmas. As we get older, we recognize holidays are more a time for giving thanks for the many blessings of life and for remembering family than they are about turkeys and presents.
This was the first Thanksgiving and will be the first Christmas our family has celebrated without my mother, Lottie Smith, who passed away July 13. These holidays are a time for reflection and a time to remember all the good times and good things Mom did and the love she had for all of us. The holidays are a time to remember what she meant to us and the sacrifices she made for us.
Mom was always there for me, my brother Bob, my daughters and their children. As Bob said to me at her funeral, “She never gave up on me, although I gave her so many opportunities and reasons to.” She never gave up on any of us because she loved us.
Her love was uncompromising and unconditional. We were her boys, and she supported us. She gave us advice. She wanted us to be better and demanded we get a college education. She set high standards for us and pushed us to achieve those standards. She was tough on us, but she protected us against everyone else. She was our guiding light and was always there if we needed her. And, we too often needed her.
She was equally faithful to her friends. She would make drapes and altered clothes for them. She was a good cook and took great pleasure in making food for her friends. She was a guiding force to some of her younger friends and gave them encouragement to further their education.
As her Circle of Life grew and she became older, she became less able to take care of all of her needs or the needs of her family and friends. However, she talked to her friends regularly until the end of her life, checking in on them and encouraging them about their lives or health conditions.
The heavy hand of time takes its toll, and in 2014 we moved Mom to an independent living retirement community in Birmingham to be closer to her granddaughters and great grandchildren. She was able to be more of a part of their lives for the past five years than she would have been in her native Corinth, Mississippi. It was difficult to watch one of the most important people in your life become more and more reliant on others and to lose the mental sharpness that had been her most valuable asset.
People express their condolences and sympathies for my loss of Mom. We all have our time, and our Circles of Life all end. Mom had a hard life but also a good life. She lived 90 years, almost of it at her home. She was raised without a mother by her father, aunt and uncle. She didn’t have electricity until her senior year in high school. She was raised on a farm like so many of her generation and mostly knew hard work and only simple pleasures. Her father was taken from her too early, shortly after she married. She suffered through many difficulties, yet she built strong relationships and friendships that survived until her death. She also raised two sons the right way with little support from anyone.
I have written here a few times here about the Circle of Life and how one generation passes on to the next and how our Circles of Life become more intertwined as our relationships change. With Mom’s death, I am now the oldest generation in my family. That is a little unsettling. Mom was always there to listen to our problems and to offer support. But she is now gone, and it is now my generation’s responsibility to provide the same guidance and leadership to the other people and family in our Circles of Life.
As we become older and our Circles of Life grow, it is our responsibility to share the important things in life to our children and to our grandchildren. We spend too much time arguing about things that we cannot control instead of things we can control and enjoy – like our families and our time together. We should look for opportunities to help people. Helping people with their struggles, family or not, is what is truly important and redeeming in life. Those are the things we will be remembered and appreciated for long after our Circles of Life end – for the same things and the same way Mom is remembered.
I hope you have a good month and a wonderful Christmas.