Recently, someone asked me how my mom does it – how she always seems to be filled with happiness instead of self-pity or fear when she grapples with so many health problems and chronic pain.
“She’s a real stoic,” the person said.
My mom would tell you she’s nothing of the sort. She would say it just boils down to the lucky fact that she was born seeing the glass half-full.
“You’re an inspiration,” I’ll say when she says such things. She’s then likely to shift uncomfortably.
“But I’m not,” she’ll insist. “I can’t take any of the credit.”
Mom would tell you it’s not just her genetics but her God who deserves the credit.
I explained this to the person who called my mom a stoic, which baffled her further. This individual has no religion. I tried to explain what “offering it up” meant and why my mom is better able to endure the suffering believing that it has a redeeming purpose. I explained how, as Christians, we are called to unite our sufferings with Christ and how this can bring us peace even if the pain remains.
The person dubiously looked at me and expressed further doubts. I then tried to explain it this way.
“Here’s an analogy for you. Let’s say there are two women giving birth. The labor pains are intense for both, but one woman does everything in her power to fight the pain. She clenches up tightly. She screams. She forgets that at the end there will be a baby because all she can focus on is the fact that she feels like she’s splitting apart.
The other woman may cry out, too. Yet, she doesn’t fight the pain. She accepts it as part of the process. She knows it is pain with a purpose and that it will not last forever. This woman understands, too, that the greatest progress is made when the pain is the sharpest.
From the outside, it seems like woman number two just must have an easier labor whereas the first woman must be in far worse pain. But is that really true? Could it possibly be that the women’s response to the pain makes the labor experiences different?”
That made a little sense to the person with whom I was speaking, but I know she doesn’t fully get it. Not yet. Crazy Christians and all their wishful thinking about sorrow and suffering. No one can get it until they find God, first wounded and crucified and then redeemed, healed, and resurrected.
Mom isn’t a stoic. She’s a strong believer. This isn’t to say Mom never has her doubts. She went through a rough spiritual patch earlier this year. A kind priest ministered to her. She began to pray to Padre Pio. She did not miraculously heal – at least not physically. But she was transformed all the same. The pain didn’t vanish. Neither did the aneurysms or tumors (those unrelated impostors who weren’t even causing pain). Yet, hope was restored.
Hope was restored in Mom, so that she could share glimpses of it with others. That’s the gift she gives me over and over – hope.
I’ll call Mom sometimes after a rough night or a rough day as a mom. I’ll vent to her, and she’ll listen. We usually end up laughing. We talk and talk and joke that we should start saying good-bye as soon as we connect because we keep thinking of new things to say to one another.
Growing up, my mom was always very much an authority figure. She was kind and fair and fun to be around, but she was not afraid to lay down the rules. Now that I’m older, a mother to my own children, she really is one of my best friends. She’s also someone I want to be more like. Actually, she’s someone I aspire to be like.
You’re turning into your mother.
I’ve heard of women who fear those words. Not I. If someone said that to me, I’d be honored because God knows I’d love to be just like my mom when I grow up.
Happy birthday! You’re the greatest mom and friend a daughter could want. I love you so much!