Charlotte MacDonald – Circa 1969

My mother, at about 4′ 10″, is a small woman. She is also the strongest person I’ve ever met. I don’t use that saying as a rhetorical device or a platitude. At least, in terms of character, I’ve never met a stronger person. As a child it seemed to me that my mother was always dealing with one health problem or another. She managed her diabetes, had her gall bladder removed and battled problems with her thyroid. In addition to all of that she had 9 children. I was the sixth. Of my younger siblings I can only recall the birth of the youngest. In spite of her health issues and her many children I have never considered my mother to be sick or sickly. I do recall her taking naps off and on through the day but without fail when she was needed she was there.

My mother was the one to hold back the hair of a sick child and stay with them throughout the night. My mother would wait up for her children to arrive home late at night. More often than not we arrived home after curfew and we might get a reminder of that but it was always tempered. Those reminders were generally accompanied by a sandwich or some other food at an hour meant for sleeping. Her children were not acting badly they were just hungry or tired. I never once felt unloved by my mother. This includes the time she sucker punched me in the head. As a teenager, I was trying to kill a younger sibling for one reason or another and my mother put herself between the two of us. I’m not a big guy but compared to my little mother I was large enough. I could have easily brushed her aside and she knew it. That fist shocked me into a remembrance of who I am. That fist, believe it or not, was delivered with love. I believed it then as I do now.

If strength is observed in our actions and attitudes then patience is a clear indication of a depth of strength. My mother is masterful in this realm. I am certain that every one of my siblings could share many stories of the patience exhibited by our mother. In fact, I hope that they do. It deserves to be legendary. I’ll provide a single example. My mother came to pick me up once and deliver me to work. She was running a little late and so I was agitated that I would be late for work. I was a new driver but she vacated the driver’s seat for me. I was in a hurry. I was driving too fast and she reminded me to slow down and take it easy. I did not. In my rush I was changing lanes and while shoulder checking did not notice the cars ahead of me come to a stop where they generally would not. I remember my mother shouting my name in warning as I hit the breaks too late. I drove the car into the back end of the one stopped in front of me.

Except in that warning call my mother never raised her voice. We traded insurance information with those involved and I helped the person ahead of me clear their car from the road. They had been pushed into the rear of the person ahead of them. Their car was useless. Ours, however, was still road worthy enough to drive away. As I look back on this it strikes me that I climbed back into the driver’s seat and drove the rest of the way to work. I don’t recall a single word of reproach from my mother. There may have been some but they were delivered in such a way that I don’t recall them. Instead, I remember a mother who trusted me to learn from my mistakes even when those mistakes were fresh. I’d been upset with my mother for being late. Even after the accident and the time it took to deal with that I arrived at work on time for my shift. I’d been callous with her, judgemental and impatient. In the face of all of that she had been the opposite. I’m sure there have been times my mother lost patience but they were and are rare.

My mother is a faithful woman. She is believing and a practitioner of the art of Christianity. If ever there was a disciple of Christ it would be my mother. As a child the things I recall most about my mother is her willingness to help those in need. Even when, as a teenager, I thought our needs were greater than others my mother served. Sometimes I think people have taken advantage of her kindness but I’m not sure she would ever see it that way – or if she did she served them anyway, and that is all the more impressive. When my mother passes away, and I hope that is not yet for a long long time, she will enter heaven having worn out her body in service to others. I know that there have been times in my life where things could have ended in disaster for me had it not been for the prayers of my mother.

She is a religious woman but she never once pushed that religion on me. I remember when I turned eight years old and was baptized she told me that her work was done. She jokingly said that I was now responsible for all my choices and she could rest. It was a joke but it has stuck with me and in someways it wasn’t far from the truth. Her children are a stubborn strong willed bunch that have made their fair share of mistakes. To maintain the type of patience she exhibits one would need to adopt an attitude that would allow you to turn things over to the Lord.

I recall with fondness seeing my mother often reading her scriptures faithfully at the kitchen table. She would write out versus on sheets of lined paper and post them to the refrigerator door. She rarely said much about them but in my frequent trips to the fridge I was fed physically and spiritually. She wrestled me out of bed each morning as a teenager and drove me across town to our little chapel where I attended early morning seminary. The car heater never seemed to work in the winter but we went anyway. I never once felt compelled to go but I also never felt it was a burden for my mother to take me. God will not force anyone to heaven and my mother is a godly woman.

As she ages others might complain that she can be a little didactic in her conversations. My daughters don’t much appreciate her encouragement to conform to her understanding of modesty. I think a little of that is borne out of a sense of guilt that she should have spoken up more often with her own children. Mom, your actions have always spoken more clearly than your words and the fruits of your life’s work will continue to blossom and grow for many generations. You are loved and will be hailed by your posterity as a chosen and valiant daughter of God.

I can think of no greater testimony of the virtue of my mother than the lives of her children, especially her daughters. Without fail she has produced eight incredible mothers. My sisters’ children are all well loved and wonderfully raised. They are all good and wonderful people. I see a little of my mother in each of them. In many ways I had nine mothers. The Lord knows I needed them all just to become a remotely worthy man.

Thank you mom, for all of us.