My mom would have celebrated her 90th birthday this past August. On that day, I was thinking of all the little things she used to say to me. Not big textbook-worthy things, but just tiny, get-to-the-point comments that carried value. There were six kids at one point in the house, so she didn’t have time to waste words. A good friend and I were texting right after I had been reflecting on this. I asked a question, needing some counsel. Out of the blue, she wrote: Be True to Thyself. This acquaintance had never met my mom, but that phrase was always spoken quite often when I was in conflict over something.—just a little nudge from heaven to say…See, Chris? I am still around.
Later, I ran to get ice at the gas station near my home. As I walked in, I heard: buy a rose. I thought….here? But sure enough, there was a lovely display of them. I chose one, and I noticed down the entire plastic sleeve that it was in, were words of advice…starting with: Be not afraid. Be bold. Love thy neighbor as thyself. Treat others the way you would want to be treated. Get a good night’s sleep…
Motherly advice that just happened to be with the flower I plucked out of a million? Sure, why not? I brought my ice and single rose to the counter. A young man helped me, and I noticed his nails were polished black like mine. I said,
“I love that color,” and he smiled when I showed him we matched.
“My fiancé did this,” he said.
He seriously looked twelve and not ready to walk down the aisle, but as I get older, everyone appears younger and younger.
I laughed and asked,
“Did you fall asleep?”
“No, she gets anxiety so bad, and I read that if you can get a person to focus on something, it helps alleviate the symptoms. So I gave her my hands to help her get through it.”
I will confess that when I commented on his nails, I couldn’t believe I had. The words had tumbled out before I could stop them. Because of changing trends and times, I don’t always understand why things are the way they are, but he had just undone some of my ‘old’ way of looking at something.
And then I remembered another piece of motherly advice that was said repeatedly: Meet people where they are at.
Had I not complimented this young person on his nails, I would have missed the opportunity to tell him that he is a very good man and that his soon to be wife was fortunate for how much he understood her.
A few days later, I attempted to self-check with an unruly machine at the grocery store. It miscalculated my total and insisted that my organic bananas were almonds. I had to push the dreaded ‘help me now’ button, and a worker came over to assist. He quickly punched all the right keys to free me from produce jail. My eyes were drawn to his hands. Once again, black nail polish.
I felt her familiar presence come close once again, prompting me not to let this moment pass me by.
“Look at us. We have the same taste in nail color.”
He smiled at me.
“I was bullied so badly in school for wearing this and for other reasons. I dropped out.”
“Really? I am sorry to hear that.”
“I am smart, and no one understood me. I asked to move into an independent study. I basically did all the work by myself, but then I left and quickly got my GED. People don’t like others who they can’t figure out.”
How sad is this world we live in?
“Are you happy now?”
“Yes. I work here, but I am pursuing what I really want to do with my life.”
“Good for you to overcome such rough circumstances. You should be so proud of yourself.”
I could tell when he put his head down, he wasn’t accustomed to people giving him praise, but he smiled and thanked me.
We didn’t get a chance to talk further because he had to help another person and a malfunctioning machine. Whether he wants it or not, he has job security. Once again, I received another level of understanding and compassion because I commented on his appearance when I otherwise wouldn’t have. Ashamedly, I would have wanted to just inwardly feel a bit of distaste and not engage. But, when you are in the thick of spiritual growth, and you have asked to be shown things from a heavenly perspective, they start to appear to bring you up higher.
I know many people would say…your mom is gone now. And I say, no, she isn’t. There’s freedom in acknowledging that. It gives me peace and death..it has no sting. In a way that is hard to explain sometimes, but I understand her better now. She wasn’t perfect by any means, but then again, who is? She struggled with past issues that she never entirely freed herself from.
But, despite that, she has given me the insight to look past the obvious, and continues to subtly point me to the One who went to the cross and took on a different set of nails.
(She was also the one who used to call me lump lumps, and I hated it. Would annoyingly sing Here She Comes, Miss America when I was barely out of bed, and would never take NO for an answer!)
(On her 60th birthday, she didn’t realize we had flipped her candle to a 9..)