African-American-mom-and-babyMother. She is the universal archetype of life, recognized by every living thing. At the moment of our conception, we draw from her life-source and nurturance to begin our journey to existence. At our birth, our very being is dependent on her singular act of offering and selflessness. With the security and certainty of her love we feel at home in our skin and safe in the world. She anchors us; the warmth of her touch protects, affirms and soothes. Her loving words instruct; her sage advice illuminates life’s path. She is the source of our life on earth, a precious guardian, benefactor and everlasting advocate. The love between a mother and her child is primordial; it is essential in its purity, strength and endurance. If we are lucky to have a good mother, we have been blessed by God and given one of the greatest gifts of life, love and adoration.

I have known the absolute, all-consuming, spirit-filled joy of a mother’s love. My mother walked defiantly out of the sun-kissed roads of St. Petersburg, Florida to assert her place in the world. She staked her claim, made her way on her sheer determination, strength and grit. Years later, at the end of life, her friends, with heartfelt and unfiltered honesty, would call her an amazing woman and her offspring would be left to marvel at their luck at being borne of this magnificent woman. There is no son who loved his mother more than me. I was an unapologetic mama’s boy and relished in my mother’s love, attention and care. When she died, I was inconsolable in my utter and overwhelming grief. I could not imagine a world without my mother in it. The basic foundation of my being had been upended and I was shaken to my core; my anchor had been permanently removed and I was left to negotiate a life, in this place, without her. I drew from the wellspring of a common human experience; loss and the sorrow that accompanies it are universality understood. The loss of mother is the most feared loss of all.

I struggled to find something to blunt my grief. It was then that I came to understand my mother’s lasting legacy. I began life a blank slate; amorphous and helpless in my nascent evolution into a spirited and substantive human being, I was my mother’s first born; I introduced her to motherhood. In me, she witnessed the miracle of her ability to bear a child.  I embodied, for her at 24 years old, all of the fears, uncertainties and hope of introducing her newborn son to the world. I was her present and future. The most lingering and enduring legacy left by my mother is what she taught me and the man I have become. I illustrate; I was the canvas and the result of her loving, meticulous care. I am the conclusion of her work, the sum of her mothering. Even now, as I settle into my sixth decade, her lessons resound; living well but always slightly below my means,  exhibiting good home-training; speaking up for myself; being a person of my word; taking good care of and respecting my body; saving my money; never taking what doesn’t belong to me and always doing the right thing and never allowing anyone to steal my joy. Her lessons were many and they have become indisputably my own.

My mother was a joyous woman who embraced life with a daring and fearlessness which belied her gender and generation. While she understood and lived life’s challenges and uncertainties, she was not given to a perpetual state of unhappiness. An assertion of the will to be joyous was one of the many gifts my mother bequeathed me. Through my sorrow, I could hear her voice urging me to mourn her passing respectfully and lovingly and then move on to live my life as she had taught me, with gusto and an expectation of good. In my grief and subsequent healing, I came to realize that I was my mother’s greatest gift and to the extent that I lived my life with honor, integrity, and goodness, I exalt her. It has been 11 years, 4 months and 22 days since my mother departed this world and although the gut-wrenching pain of her absence has subsided, I still miss her every day. I begin each day in thanksgiving for God’s great gift to me in her and the privilege of being her son. I am still brought to tears at unexpected moments and embrace them as acknowledgement of my wonderful fortune of being the son of a remarkable woman who introduced me to this world and for 50 years stood lovingly with me as I found my place in it.