We usually repeat what’s pleasant: a beloved piece of music, an old storybook, a novel reread until the stitching comes loose on the binding. Old movies are another sweet experience we enjoy reliving over and over again.
Warm memories shared may replay in our minds especially if their associated with a holiday or vacation. Rituals we cherish with those we love are automatically recorded and later brought to mind in times of loneliness or pain.
Before bed, my children adored stories, songs and “cuddles and kisses.” When I was in a hurry, I’d rush through a rhyme my Uncle Walt taught to me: “I’ll tell you a story about Annie and Norrie; and now my story’s begun. I’ll tell you another about my brother, and now my story is done.”
My kids were so disappointed. “No, no, not that one,” they wailed. Read Go Dog Go!” Dr. Seuss was always a favorite. As a result, a familiar chant “Go, around again, dog” was said when someone had to repeat an action or they wanted a do-over.
The Chipmunks brought us “Pardōn” with the appropriate response: “wee wee, Monsieur.” That phrase still slips out in my speech today, even though no one is around who is familiar with this practice. I respond, even though I’m alone, with an appropriate “wee wee, Monsieur.” Old habits die hard.
If one of my sons came up with a bright idea or outsmarted a brother or a sister, they would put a small finger beside their nose and say: “I be smart” thanks to old “Ben Gunn, a character from “Treasure Island” that they enjoyed imitating. The books we read together and the fun we shared found its way into our vocabulary and in our interactions with others.
I had a friend who always lamented that she was a “terrible mother.” She wasn’t patient. She was too busy working and didn’t spend as much time with her boys as she would have liked. One day she fell and fractured a rib. In the process of dealing with it, the doctors found she had a tumor on her kidney and was near kidney failure. She immediately went into hospice.
I was there for her funeral. I wondered what these “neglected boys, now men, would say about their mother?” Had they been unhappy? Did they feel ignored and alone?
The memorial service spared nothing. A presentation of slides and photos revealed it all – the happy faces, the rough and tumble play, the picnics and the story telling. One by one each son stood and expressed his love and gratitude toward a mother who never knew, perhaps because they had failed to tell her.
Each son quoted passages from famous authors and their books. Shakespeare was a favorite. Biblical passages once memorized were used in praising her. Some had been used in helping them make difficult decisions in life. Their mother’s influence had been with them throughout their lives and had helped them to cherish great literature, to glean wisdom from its pages, and to live honorably because of it.
This faithful woman had died thinking she was a failure; that she should have done more. Yet her sons had blossomed under her care into doctors, attorneys and teachers. They had become good citizens, neighbors, husbands and fathers. Small and insignificant things do matter!
The unique touch of a mother’s hand can leave an indelible imprint on the future of the world. What if these sons had focused on her deficiencies and mistakes; would they have achieved as much recognition and success as they apparently had? Would they see their lives half-full instead of brimming with laughter and knowledge?
The perfect life doesn’t exist. We never have enough time or money to do all of the things we wish to do before our own demise. Sometimes our bucket list never gets finished. The best we can do is to let the people we care about know how much we love them so they don’t end up like my late friend, never knowing the truth.