The 8-year-old boy stood with his family along a crowded pew. The packed church was singing a moving tune, inviting people to give their lives to Christ and receive forgiveness for their sins. He gripped his hymnbook harder as his heart kept leaping into his throat. He knew what he needed to do. Wanted to do. But he was afraid. He stood firm.
The guest preacher stopped the song and said a few words, adding to the plea, then asked the church to sing again. The boy looked and noticed one of his friends had made his way to the front to share his commitment with the pastor. Behind that friend was a second friend. Their presence stoked the boy's courage. He closed the hymnbook, slipped out from his family and made his way up the aisle.
"Why have you come?" asked the pastor. "I want to dedicate my life to the Lord," the boy said, tears streaming down his cheeks.
That event happened on Mother's Day. The boy's mom told him that it was the best Mother's Day gift he could give her. Years later, the boy still remembers snippets of that day in vivid detail. It's on his mind today because it took place on May 8, 1960. Fifty years ago yesterday.
I will see my mom today. At a graveside. She will weep with empathy as she watches her nephew's body lowered into the ground. Her empathy comes from knowing. She knows what it is to lose a child. She knows the shock that gives way to searing pain. She knows the joy of being surrounded by comforting loved ones followed by the raw loneliness that eats away for months -- even years -- afterward.
She also knows resilience. She knows what it's like to rebuild from the sorrow. She has found ways to carve hope into the granite face of grief. She knows how to give herself away in the midst of the pain, bringing joy to others and thus back to herself.
A younger generation may not remember the song penned by Howard Johnson 95 years ago: "M is for the million things she gave me..." "Put them all together they spell MOTHER," he concluded. But I have long called her "Mom." And you can't spell that in three letters.
On this Mother's Day, let me say that I know a growing chorus of women who could vie for the title of "World's Best." In addition to my mom is Cathy, the mother of our children. And her mom. And my daughters. And my sister and sister-in-law. And Cathy's sisters. And...
Happy Mother's Day to you all!