One of the earliest memories I have of my mother, Sandi, is from when I was three or four years old. It was during summer and we were living in our first home in Annapolis, MD. I remember playing in the front yard with my mother and feeling very happy and safe. I recall vividly the expression on her face – she radiated joy, encouragement and a mother’s love all in a simple look which has long been captured in my mind. Joy, encouragement and love… these are words which evoke warm feelings in me and they accurately describe how she lived her life
There are many other memories of my mother; too many to share here. What strikes me, as I cast my thoughts to the past, is that throughout her life, in good times and bad and through triumph and tragedy, she was always a consistent and positive influence for me and countless others. Forever joyful, encouraging and loving.
Although she grew up in a challenging home, my mother chose to be a loving and devoted wife and mother which was very different from her own childhood experience. My mother always credited her faith as her lifeline and the catalyst for the good, but tough choices she made in her life. For as long as I can remember, she was a devout Christian and her relationship with Christ sustained and molded her in ways which were obvious to all who knew her. I know in my heart that as soon as she entered Heaven, she heard Christ say: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
My mother worked her entire life until illness forced her to retire. I recall that we didn’t have a lot of extras when I was growing up, but she saw to it that we had what we needed. We had quality family time over dinner every night. My sister and I learned the value of hard work from both of our parents, especially my mother, as she had a full time job as well as the more important roles of wife and mom. She played all of these roles joyfully and without complaint. My mother also saw to it that we had love in our house, encouragement to do our best and a focus on faith which was best taught to us by her own shining example.
“How can I help?” and “I will pray for you” were often the first words out of her mouth to friends, family and strangers alike and everyone knew she meant it. I am amazed at the number of lives my mother deeply touched, including my own. She was long an inspiration to others through her friendship, mentoring, writing, care-giving and, one of her favorite roles, Sunday School Teacher.
In many ways I am my father’s son. As a husband and father, much of who I am and what I do has been influenced by his example. But, as I grow older, I am grateful that I have learned to appreciate my heart; a heart I received from my mother. I am now in my mid-40s and with each passing year I feel more strongly the influence of her life on my own. My own miniscule efforts to help and encourage others are in many ways shaped by her lifetime of selfless service to others. I am incredibly grateful for her influence, but I have a long way to go to emulate her loving and generous example. I pray that my sons will remember the lessons they learned from their Nana as well.
I wrote much of this reflection at 30 thousand feet on a flight to Tampa to see my mother in the hospital a few weeks before her health started to seriously decline. Long flights in airplanes can have a strange effect on people and that particular trip was cathartic and a true blessing for me as I played the movie of my mother’s life over and over in my head.
In the final weeks of her life, with her family near her and an endless parade of friends visiting her, she had a chance to say her goodbyes and reflect on her life, a life spent in selfless service to others. One of the last things my mother said to me was that she hoped people would remember her life and not just the last days of her illness. As for me, I will always see her, as I did over 40 years ago, smiling at me with joy, encouragement and a mother’s love.
Sandi Hain passed away on February 22, 2009 after a long illness.
Randy Hain, Senior Editor for The Integrated Catholic Life™, is the author of The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work which was recently released by Liguori Publications. The Catholic Briefcase is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble online and your local Catholic bookstore.
The Catholic Briefcase was recently selected as a Finalist in the About.com Catholicism Reader’s Choice Awards for the Book of the Year for 2011. You can vote for The Catholic Briefcase here: About.com Catholicism Reader’s Choice Awards
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