A special holiday this Sunday

Published 4:59 pm Tuesday, May 8, 2018

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We’re a nation of holidays, and we’ve managed to commercialize most of them — Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Presidents’ Day sales. Give us a chance and we’ll turn any observance into a trip to the mall.

To our credit, Mother’s Day retains a bit of dignity, as it should. There is plenty of Mother’s Day advertising, but the promotions are generally less crass than those connected with most holidays, and even the day on which we honor our mothers, Sunday, elevates it to almost religious status. And that too is as it should be, for God created something really special in mothers.

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Motherhood is complex, but in the end, the relationship of mothers and their children might be defined in two important ways. A mother is the person a child would least like to disappoint, and she is also the person least likely to be disappointed in her child.

In other words, a mother’s love is unconditional, and most children come to realize that, and respect it. It creates a bond unlike any other relationship. The mother will defend the child no matter what the age or the transgression. While she may realize the sins of her offspring, she will continue to love them.

In our society, as in most societies throughout history, it is our mothers who hold families together, who set the example, and thus the standards for the next generation. We may listen, or refuse to listen, but our mothers continue to nudge us toward something better.

The significance of a stalwart mother’s influence was never better portrayed than in the recent funeral service for Barbara Bush. Watching tht service, it occurred to me that the remembrances of that magnificent lady embodied the very best that we will celebrate this Mother’s Day. Particularly in son Jeb Bush’s brief eulogy can be found the simplest, yet most profound, qualities of a mother.

Bush recalled that his mother “filled our lives with laughter and joy and, in the case of her family, she was our teacher and role model on how to live a life of purpose and meaning.”

Bush went on the describe more specifically this remarkable woman had taught her children. “The little things we learned became habits and they led to bigger things like, be kind, always tell the truth, never disparage anyone, serve others. Treat everyone as you would want to be treated and love your God with your heart and soul.”

The former governor’s remarks spoke to a nation never more in need of strong women to shape us.

One of the quaintest traditions of Mother’s Day is the wearing of a rose or carnation — red if your mother is still living, white if she is deceased. Most of my generation are wearing white these days, honoring, and at the same time remembering, the mothers who are no longer with them.

And it was indeed a generation to remember. The mothers of my childhood were shaped by the cataclysm of World War II and the Great Depression. They were frugal women, able to stretch a family budget and the pantry, living by the code of “waste not, want not.”

They had a code of conduct shaped by large families and rural or small town churches, and like Barbara Bush, they attempted, in the face of growing secular influence, to pass that code along to their offspring. They believed in education and were quick to praise effort, but made it clear that just getting by wasn’t good enough.

Motherhood didn’t end with that generation, and the Depression and two world wars weren’t the last of motherhood’s challenges. I am constantly amazed at the efforts made by many young mothers today. They must raise children in an age of drugs, of violent music and videos, of peer pressure far more dangerous than that of our generation.

And all too often, these young mothers face the challenge alone. For reasons too numerous and complex to deal with here, the number of single mothers trying to survive on their own and raise one or more children in the process is one of the greatest tragedies — and challenges — of our time. And yet, a very large percentage of them are succeeding because they continue to possess that old, unconditional love.

On Sunday, be it white or read, wear a flower proudly.

An earlier version of this Short Rows was published as a tribute to Mother’s Day in 2002.