Monday, February 25, 2008

The Greatest Gift

My mother is an interesting person. Some people might go as far as to call her “eclectic”. Some might go a little farther. She is, after all, a woman who finds joy in the strangest things; one of her greatest pleasures is to push her shovel into the ground and turn over fresh earth. I kid you not.

Her garden is made up of 20 raised beds, each about 4’ x 16’, and she turns them all by hand. No roto-tillers or plows for her; just her shovel and her foot. She has worn out 2 shovels in the past 10 years, and when I say “worn out” I don’t mean a broken handle, I mean that the shovel head has literally been worn away.

Her mind is still wonderfully curious. She got it in her head at age 60 that she wanted to try beekeeping, and she has experimented with her hives ever since – sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing – and we have been the recipients of the honey from those hives on many occasions.

She is intrigued with solar power, wind energy, composting toilets, and other such things. No chemical fertilizer has ever touched her garden, and though she has lived most of her life with the conveniences that we have all come to take for granted, she now hangs her clothes on a line to dry, heats her home with a woodstove, and – though she has city water – prefers to gather her drinking water in buckets from a hand-pumped well just outside her door or from the spring several miles down the road.

It’s her choice.

I’ll admit, some of her choices make me laugh, some of them make me shake my head in wonder, and some of them make me hold up my hands and say “Now Mom, let’s talk about this first.” But there is one choice that she made long ago – a conscious choice – that has been a blessing on my life. I look at that choice as the greatest gift she could have ever given me, because she didn’t have to do it, but my life has been made better than it ever could have been otherwise simply because she did.

It’s not that she carried me for 9 months and then brought me into this world. It’s not that she loved me and always did her best to provide for me as I grew up, nor is it that she always forgave me when I did something wrong. It has nothing to do with money, or discipline, or advice, or material things that I could hold in my hands. I have been the beneficiary of all of those things and more, but they all pale in comparison to this one single thing that she has done for me:

She loves my wife.

Absolutely, unconditionally, and without question.

She understood long before I did what my priorities in life must be: God, my wife, my children. In that order. She understood that she was not in this “top 3”; that she was no longer “the” woman in my life, and that for the sake of my own young family, she had to step aside and accept a new role in my life: That of a friend, a confidant, an encourager, and a mentor. Not for her son, but for the woman her son married.

My mother loves my wife. Absolutely, unconditionally, and without question. What a wonderful thing. It is – by far – the greatest gift she has ever given me.

And her son rises up and calls her blessed.

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