“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
St. John 15:13
It took me a while – too long – to realize this, but love is not so much said, as it is done. Love is action, not words. Greater love hath no man than this, not that he says that he will lay down his life for his friends, but that a man lay down his life for his friends. On the eve of my Mum’s 51st birthday, in trying to summarize her life, the best way (not the only way) that I can say it is that it has been a life laid down for her family.
Let me begin with her cooking. I remember that every Sunday Mum would make French toast for breakfast, and I used to have four slices of the stuff and a sweet mug of Milo, and my Sunday morning would be made. I have yet to taste a French toast like Mum’s. Then in the afternoon, after church, she’d make, yes make us a pizza, and bake a dessert of some glorious thing called “Apple Shortcake”. Now, I don’t know whether or not you know what Apple Shortcake is friend, but if you don’t you’d do well to find out. I can feel that sugary upper crust crumble in my mouth right now. Christmas was baked potatoes and chicken, and Kentucky Fried has nothing on Mummy’s oven-made chicken. For one, it had this glorious golden-brown skin… I’d gorge myself silly, almost. To this day, her chapatis are famous. I remember I’d hold one up by one side, and it’d tear apart, it was so soft. People struggle to finish one or two. The best compliment I ever gave them was the time I ate eight of them at a go. Sadly, these days I only average three. I hope I compliment her cooking in this manner for a long while to come.
There was a time when the family did not have as much as it has now, and things were really tight. Of course, this would not really filter down to us as kids, but now that I look back, it’s easier to understand. Mum was always finding new ways of bringing money into the home. She ran a garden around the house that was simply amazing. I can remember that she’d be watering her garden up to 2 o’clock at night (yes, that’s 2 am) to make sure that there was a little extra cash. Nor was that money for herself, no, no, no! There exists that kind of woman that will keep every penny she earns for dressing and manicures. Thank God, my Mum is not like that. It used to do things like pay my Dining Hall fees. Yes, me! Or it would go towards some other family expense.
I also remember the time when Dad was studying, and so Mum had to work. She’d spend a whole week at a time away from home, teaching, to give the family some income. One of my fondest childhood memories is of when Mum would come in at the door of a Friday evening and Dad would dry his hands from doing the dishes or some other kitchen-work, and give Mum a hug. Then she would greet us kids, too, and Mum would be home. There was a time she even used to drive I think either a total of 100 km per day or 100 km to work every day and 100 km back, every single week-day to earn a living.
My Mum was and is very concerned about our education. I remember when we were out of school for some time, because we’d been out of the country, and when we came back we had to find a way of joining school. As Mum and Dad looked for a school, Mum spent quality, quantity time at home with us, teaching us Maths and English. Certainly it paid off, for when we finally went to do interviews, I remember I did the Standard 5 interview for Maths and scored 90% in the school’s end of year exam for Standard 5 on the back of Mum’s tutelage. It was felt that another year in Standard 5 would be a waste of time for me. Nor was I an isolated case. My brother and sister too, were each pushed ahead a year. We’ve all been a year ahead, in our primary and secondary education as a result.
She’s a godly woman, Mum is. One of my earliest memories is of the time we went to hospital to visit an aging Christian lady who was lying in hospital on what was quite clearly her deathbed. I could have been 7 at the time, or 8 at the very outside. Anyway, there she lay, poor woman, the picture of frailty, thin, and with grey hair framing her face. Then Mum picked up a hymnbook and sang “Peace in the Valley” to a dying Christian. I tell you, the song has never been quite the same to me since. I shall never forget it. In that small hospital room, with the early evening sunshine streaming in through the window, and the words and the melody of that song floating softly on the quiet air, it was like we were – ever so briefly – shrouded inside a drop of golden Eternity. There’s a Heaven somewhere, friends. Some day the lion will lay down by the lamb. I have often tried to re-live that moment and apprehend, or trap some of the Atmosphere that was there in that room in my adult-life, but the moment has gone. It was like a brief parting of the clouds, and now the clouds have closed again. I’m sure I’ll meet It again, some day.
Mum also has an understanding of the Bible that is quite profound. There have been times she has said one statement about a Scripture that has hitherto seemed commonplace, and it will throw a whole new light on the matter. As I’d said about Dad, that might not mean much to you, but it means the world to me. I think this world could do with a lot more godly mothers like mine; too many mothers with the God-given responsibility to raise children right know more about Secreto di Amor than they do about God. It’s amazing how little time we devote to the things that really matter, friends.
And she’s a person of great faith, too – I admire how Mum prays. She used to start with “Lord Jesus” and when she said it, you got the impression that she was really talking to Someone, and that she knew Him from some previous encounter(s), and that they’d spoken before and were generally on speaking terms, and that she was entirely aware that she had His ear this time, too. That’s valuable, friends. My Mum is one of those people who when they pray, God moves. I remember one time she prayed to God to help her to stop driving too fast. By the way, my Mum was and probably still is the best driver I know, even though she was fast. Anyway, she wanted to be better. The very next day, as she was driving to work, the accelerator of our little Datsun stuck to the floor. So the little car accelerated to about 160 km/h and my poor Mum was driving grasping the steering wheel with her left hand, and looking at the road through the space between the wheel and the dashboard, because she was bending down trying to unstick the pedal from the floor with her right hand, to slow down, because a corner was approaching. Well, as I said, God moves when Mum prays. I have never seen her do a hair over 100 km/h since. Certainly, the opportunity has been there.
Aside: If you didn’t know that the smallest things that matter to you matter to God (like wanting to drive well) be informed that they do, especially if you’re a Christian.
I used to continually get ill with bronchial complications and chest problems and every doctor we went to would say that I have asthma. But there was one doctor who we’d gone to see early on in the issue and he said that I didn’t have asthma, but that I had complications that made it look like I had asthma. There are times in life that you have to choose who and what to believe. There’s a lot I could say here, but this is about Mum. She chose to believe the doctor who said I did not have asthma. I’d come home from seeing the doctor and I’d crawl into bed, miserable as could be and Mum would come in with a glass of hot lemon juice, or something and wake me up and say “Let’s pray.” And she’d lay her hand on me and ask God to heal me in perfect confidence that that was the end of the matter. I can still “feel” her hand on my head. Invariably I’d get better. I can’t remember exactly at what point those problems ceased, but certainly in my entire adult life I have never been to a doctor for any chest complications or “asthma”. Frankly, I hardly see a doctor these days, period.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: sometimes I think of the parenting I’ve received and think that I should be tons better than what I am. To take that thought in the other direction, I’d have been a real disaster, had not God seen it fit to give me the parents that he did.
So Mummy, I love you. Words are a mean vehicle with which to convey how I feel but they are all I have. Thanks, Mum. Truly. And Happy 51st birthday. May you have many, many many more.
Your first-born son.