The Example She Set

A few days before my Mother died, there were a few things she wanted to make sure of. She then asked me what I would like to say to her. I was not prepared for the question, even though I should have been, given her deteriorating condition and her sense of urgency to have this conversation. I remember stumbling through my answer, telling her that I loved her and what a great Mom she had always been. Iím sure I adequately expressed my appreciation for her, and she knew how much she meant to me, but it got me thinking that I had never really thought about what effect my Mom had on my life.

As I now grieve over her absence, I thought I would stop and think about what she meant to me. Iím hoping this will help shift my focus from my sadness of her passing to the joy I have felt to have known her all of my life and how lucky I am to be her son.

When Iíve stopped and thought about traits I exhibit that have helped me live my life, it seems like I was always attributing them to certain periods of my life. I learned to be accepting of people different than myself by being in the Navy and having to work with such a diversity of people. I learned how to deal with pressure and be focused from racing motorcycles. I developed my sense of humor so that I would make friends at school. As I think of this anew, I realize that these are traits I learned from my mother. My wife is the one that made me realize this. As they got to know each other, she would often comment how I did things like my Mom did. For some reason, this really hadnít occurred to me. Sometimes it takes a new view of a situation to notice the obvious.

As I grew up, I can remember that many of my Momís married friends had what would have been referred to back then as a ďmixed marriageĒ. I canít remember my Mom ever using that term. If two people loved each other, thatís all that mattered. It wasnít until I got older that I realized the unfortunate truth that this view is not universally shared. This is just one small example of how she accepted people for who they are and was never judgmental. Being raised in this environment, it was only natural that I would not have any preconceived notions of any groups of people when I left the homogenous enclave of suburban Minnesota and entered the more diverse population of the armed forces.

There were also certain decisions I made in my life that I know she was not entirely comfortable with, but she accepted them and supported them. My motorcycle racing made her nervous for my safety. My decision to postpone college and go into the Navy was probably disappointing to her, or least puzzling (in retrospect, its kind of puzzling to me still). Yet, she never discouraged me from doing these things. Most of my racing took place when I lived out of state, but she did attend several of my races in Minnesota and Iíve been told that she did not cover her eyes while I was competing. With this kind of support, it shouldnít be surprising that I am usually accepting of other peopleís behavior, even if I donít agree with or understand it.

Mom always had an amazing way of coping with problems. I canít say that I never saw her get angry (although it was quite rare), but I donít recall her ever getting frazzled or panicky. For the most part, I feel that I deal with problems in a similar manner. This attribute has been tremendously helpful in getting through rough times and maintaining an even keel. It would be very egotistical to think I developed this ability through sheer will. Without her constant example, I doubt that I would deal with stress the way that I do.

Perhaps the thing that most people will remember about my Mom is her sense of humor. She had a way of lightening up any situation and making people smile. In 1994, my parents and I went to Thailand to visit my sister (I feel blessed that we were able to have a family vacation as it seems pretty rare once the kids are adults). During the trip, we were always asking her to convert the local currency or time, teasing her about how many pictures she was taking of birds, or frequently pointing out, ďLook Mom, thereís a temple.Ē Iím not sure why we would pick on her, but she never got mad about it and we all had a great time.

Iíve been told that my sense of humor, although probably a bit more dark (my friends may say occasionally twisted), is similar to hers. Her humor was sometimes silly and often pointed out the absurdities present in all our lives. It was never at someone elseís expense. I have never really seen the humor of putting someone else down and I know that is because of her.

As many people can attest, I could go on for a long time about all her wonderful qualities. I havenít even mentioned her selflessness, her fashion sense, her strong faith, her organizational and leadership abilities, or her always-present dignity. It may be true that most sons or daughters would think their mothers are almost saints, but in my case, I think many other people would agree with me. She touched many lives with all her volunteer activities she was involved in and with her lively presence. I know that a few of her traits live on in me and I can only hope that I can someday be half as virtuous as she was.

Although I am sad for myself, because I will miss her, I am happy for her, because I know she has gone onto the next life in Godís good graces. It was a joy to know her and she will always live on in my heart.

Bob Chase
February, 1997

Note - I did not do any revisions to this, even though itís been over 20 years between when it was written and when it was posted to this web site, and the compulsive reviser in me does not like many of the sentences.