Wisdom from my mothersposted by Tim Nafziger on 05/13/12 at 11:06 PM
This week in the midst of packing and sorting, I came across three letters: two from my mother, Lois Hess Nafziger, and one from her mother, Mary Hess. For Mother's Day, I want to share parts of these letters to me as a way to honor these two women for the powerful ways they've shaped our family.
This first quote is from the the last letter my grandmother wrote to me before she died in 2008. It's written in a shaky, but clear cursive.
I am praying the Lord will bless you and make you a blessing. We can learn from every person we meet if we want to. In this way we become more useable to the Lord. We never get done learning.—Dec. 30, 2003
The importance of life-long growth and learning was a value my grandmother passed on to my mother, and she passed on to me. On the day my grandmother died, I wrote a letter to her here on this blog in which I talk about the stories she read to my brother and sister and me.
When I turned 15, my mother wrote me a letter, this one typed out on a computer. She said:
"I believe you will find that many of the the things about ourselves that make us angry have a positive contribution to make to our live. SO, learn to know yourself and God, find strengths that are within your character and enjoy the benefit of the relationships that results."
Seventeen years later, these words seem prescient. I can see how my relationship with those closest to me flow out of some of the strengths of my character as well as the parts of myself that make me angry.
Mom understood that encouraging learning in me wasn't necessarily going to take me to the same places she was. The next year in her letter she said:
"You have come to think more for yourself as evidenced from your decision to be a vegetarian and your political views that sometimes differ from ours. That is good. You weren't born to be a clone of one or the other of us."
In college and since, mom's yearly birthday letters have moved to email. They've become shorter, but also more poetic. This beautiful passage comes from her letter to me when I turned 26:
"To look back over these years can be like standing at a lookout where one has a great view of mountains, valleys, rivers and hills. One can stand looking for a good deal of time. There is much to see that appears quite different than when one was walking down in the valley or along the river. This large picture can be seen against the backdrop of the many daily experiences and relationship represented by that journey and my response is gratitude. Savor today as one can savor each day knowing that the current moment is where we really do our living."
I hope that I can rise to Mom's challenge of holding mountain-top moments together with a life firmly grounded in the current of the river.
I'll close this reflection with a quote from Richard Eyre that Mom quoted in her letter to me on my 15th birthday, so many years ago. It resonates much more deeply now than it did then:
"Our parents cast long shadows over our lives. When we grow up, we imagine that we can walk in the sun, free of them. We don't realize, until it's too late, that we have no choice in the matter; they're always ahead of us.
We carry them within us all our lives—in the shape of our face, the way we walk, the sound of our voice, our skin, our hair, our hands, our heart. We try all our lives to separate ourselves from them, and only when they are gone do we find we are indivisible."
Thanks, Mom and Grandma for walking wisely and boldly ahead of me!
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