When my mother died 8 years ago, I was overwhelmed by the love and consolation that poured in from friends. Lots of cards, emails and phone calls – more empathy than I could have ever imagined.
My friend Tim wrote me a particularly beautiful note. He’s a man of the old school, writes on thick paper with a fountain pen, always painting wonderful pictures with his words.
“We only have one mum,” he began his note. “Her loss is incalculable.”
He was right, of course. It’s a biological fact. Every person is born of one woman. We enjoy her company for a finite amount of time. Some for a short while and others for many years. If you love your mother, however long it is, it’s never long enough.
From Joan Batura, I learned so many things – the importance of a deep faith, the power of a smile, the importance of a listening ear, curiosity and compassion, a love of radio – and the value of newspapers, book stores and the public library.
“If you love reading, you’ll never be lonely,” she once told me. She was right.
But as another Mother’s Day comes, I’m reminded that my mom isn’t the only mother who has changed my life in many wonderful ways.
Jeanette Breen was another mother who shaped my outlook on life in mighty ways.
“Mrs. Breen” was mom to Derek, Sean and Collin, but she was also the fun neighborhood mom to all of us. Her back door was always open, and her fridge was full of good things to eat. She’d make buttery popcorn in an old red pot, and we’d watch the latest heavyweight bout, or a hockey or baseball game, on the television in the den.
She was a midwife – a trendsetter – who balked at conventional medicine and always had a spirited opinion. “It’s a full moon,” she would say. “I’m going to be busy.” And she was right – lots of babies are born during full moons.
She was also fearless, uninhibited, too. When she hosted a party to celebrate the Rangers winning the Stanley Cup in 1994 (breaking a 54-year drought), she somehow managed to get their captain Mark Messier’s phone number and called to invite him to the bash.
From Mrs. Breen, I learned to be unconventional and not worry about what “other” people think. She had an “others first” mentality. And she was just fun and a bit eccentric. When she’d misplace something, she’d run around the house yelling, “Help me, Tony, help me!” A Catholic, she was calling on Saint Anthony, the patron saint of lost things.
I’m forever indebted to my wife Julie’s mother, Cindy Hamilton. You won’t find a sweeter woman more grounded in what matters most. Cindy’s rearing produced the wife of my dreams.
Mother-in-law jokes are plentiful, but there’s nothing funny about the importance of the mother responsible for raising the woman you love and to whom you commit your life.
From Cindy, I’ve learned the importance of unconditional love and loyalty. She is a faithful woman who never tires of doing the right thing.
As the mother of our three boys, Julie is a mom who has changed my life more than anyone in the world. She makes our home such a pleasant and fun place, even fills it with wonderful music and singing as she sits and plays at her piano. In her art, she’s taught me to be more expressive in mine, to write from my heart more than my head.
From Julie, I’ve learned to enjoy the moment, savor and cherish the time because the kids grow fast and the seasons change quickly. Nobody gives more of herself than my wife.
There are three more mothers I want to laud, all of whom entrusted Julie and me with the greatest of all gifts – our three sons, Riley, Will and Alex.
Mother’s Day can be difficult for birth mothers who have agonizingly but sacrificially made adoption plans for their children. I hope they find comfort and assurance in the fact that their selfless act positively changed the trajectory of their child’s life.
In our family, Julianna, Joli and Jennifer are celebrated and lifted up as heroes of the highest order. It’s impossible to adequately express your gratitude to women who confer on you the privilege of parenthood.
We see their smiles in our boys’ smiles, their wit and warmth in our sons’ respective temperaments. Are we the product of nature or nurture? I think the answer is a resounding “yes” to both.
We have a relationship with 2 of the 3 birth mothers in our family. We pray that someday it will be all three. Open adoption is not always possible, but when it is, the relationship can be rich.
Every single one of us is the product of the lives that touch ours, none more so than our mothers and the mother-like figures who have shaped us since childhood.
Mother’s Day is more than just the celebration of our moms, it’s a referendum on our futures - and that of the world. Strong mothers make for great families – and no nation will ever be greater than its mothers.