Saturday, May 11, 2013

To Mom, With Love

My good parents, Ben and Mary, around 1970

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. 

Honor her for all that her hands have done..."

(from Proverbs 31)

My mother, Mary Nisly, was child number nine in a family of thirteen; I was number eight in a family of nine. She grew up in a home with a father and mother whose simple faith was an integral part of their lives; I was well blessed with equally devout parents. She enjoyed reading, entertaining, gardening and traveling; so do I. My mother was a keen judge of human nature; could recognize her own flaws and those of others, and had a clear and certain sense of what was right and wrong. Sometimes, like her, I am too critical of myself and others, too intolerant of those with whom I differ, but I deeply appreciate the convictions she held.

A plucky half-pint of a woman, my mother died of cancer at the age of sixty-seven. On her gravestone is the title of one of her favorite gospel songs, “I need no mansion here below.” Her childhood home was certainly no mansion, and she died in the modest mobile home my parents bought for their retirement.

Frugal to a fault, she knew how to make her life truly rich in a multitude of ways, by her love of flowers and of vegetable gardening, by her enjoyment of nature and of raising canaries, by her love of music and books, and by her gracious hospitality and her many friendships. That was her legacy.

As a child I was blessed by her warm hugs and her stories and by her example of a quiet faith and unselfish life. She was well known in our community for the generous help and encouragement she gave her family, her neighbors, and her many church friends. Our house was a always a haven of hospitality.

My parents were far from perfect, and experienced their share of sad and distressed times. Like their own parents, they tended to be conflict-avoidant, and overstressed the need for everyone to be nice at all costs, even if it meant sweeping certain issues under the rug. But each was a far better parent than I could have ever deserved.

I hope that somehow my folks, and Alma Jean's, are still aware of the large debt we will always owe them. They have given us our life and, for better or for worse,  have powerfully shaped our life direction. Remembering their contributions reminds us of other members of our families and our many friends with whom we need to stay more up-to-date in the appreciation department.

I'd give anything to be able to give my folks one more hug and tell them how much I love them.

(adapted from my 2007 book Lasting Marriage, the Owners' Manual)
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