Today is my mother’s birthday.
In the States, iconic birthdays we celebrate include sweet 16 (I can’t remember why?) and 18 when you’re legally able to vote and 21 when you’re legally able to buy alcohol and 30 when you’re officially “old”. In the South Indian culture where I am from, the iconic birthday is 60. In that part of the world, we celebrate the wisdom that comes from age and living a life fulfilled that can be passed down to the next generation.
Not a day goes by when I don’t think of something that my mother did to help our family and those around her. I think of her so very young taking me on my first journey, just a baby, from a tiny village all the way to Leeds, England. I think of seeing her the first time when we first came to the States, as she had come here months before, a trailblazer for our family. I think of her making and packing our lunches when we were little. I think of her countless hours of serving others as a nurse in the hospital. I think of how she important she’s been to me at every important and every not so important moment in my life. I think of how there are so many qualities she has that I have.
And so it was, on my mom’s 60th birthday, we threw her a surprise birthday party. Family from far and wide came, as did the many friends she had touched over the years. My dad, my brothers and my sister were there. We all said kind words that exemplified the kind heart she possessed. In front of a crowd of well over one hundred people, I said these words. And years later, these words I shared with the audience still hold true.
“An Ode to My Mother…
Hers is not a life necessarily defined by a single moment though there have been many significant single moments. Rather, the beauty of her life lies more in the consistency of so many different moments thread along a common theme of love. My mother is a very funny woman, quite witty; and she is beautiful and caring, quick to laugh (at herself as well as with others), even quicker to cry – strength in the sincerity of her emotions. Always giving of her time and her love to both family and friends, she is simply an amazing woman.
Consistency? The countless number of times where she would stay awake late on a Friday night awaiting the arrival of one of her children home to West Lafayette or Greenwood; and, of course, on Sunday, the subsequent cooler full of food for our way home to Chicago or St. Louis. She would be the last person standing outside the doorway waving goodbye until we were out of sight as we drove away.
While we were growing up, she awoke daily at 5:00 AM, worked full-time a full day, yet still managed to prepare a full-course, South Indian dinner, no matter how tired or spent she was from the hospital. She is still the best cook that I know, better than any chef in any restaurant that I have ever eaten.
She would take care of us when we were sick. And when we were too far away, she would call daily to ensure that we had gone to the doctor and taken our meds.
How about funny? [To this day, Mom doesn’t like for me to tell the story of what she said when she saw me for the first time after I had shaved my head. Out of respect for her, I’ll omit what I actually recounted to the audience. All I will say is that I have had friends in TV that want to submit me and my mother for a show on air. She’s that funny.]
How about courage? A year and a half ago, we were helplessly worried about Mom, as she was stuck in Kuwait, at the beginning of the Iraqi invasion. Much of that time was spent in a bomb shelter. She clung to the belief that she would see her family again. She trusted the Lord, and her resourcefulness and prayers were answered.
How about love? My mother is an incredible person, though I sometimes wonder if she even realizes that fact, which I find so obvious. I have never in my life met someone who loves so wholeheartedly the way she does. It’s not even close. She gives herself, all of it, and 100% of her love to her family, without want for reciprocation.
I was unemployed for much of last year. By the beginning of this year, I had hit rock bottom. If not for the unconditional love and support from both Mom & Dad, I would have never gotten through it.
I realize how much I love you, but I also realize I never tell you that enough.
I love you Mom and Happy 60th Birthday!”
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