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  • Robert M. Edsel

The Miracle of Motherhood

Friday, February 14, we laid to rest my dear mother. Norma Louise Morse Edsel lived eighty-nine remarkable years. Her legacy, which includes three children, eight grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren, will live on in the hearts of her family members and many friends. To all those who attended Friday's service, thank you for being there to honor her life.

On behalf of Jim, Anne, and our families, we want to thank all of you for being here this afternoon to honor the memory of our mother. We’d hoped that in getting her out of the hospital and back home, she would have had the chance to visit with dear friends during her remaining time. Alas, this was not meant to be. So we shall take this opportunity to remember her fondly and celebrate with you her full and successful life of nearly eighty-nine years.

During the last five weeks of mom’s illness, the dichotomy of frequent drives to hospitals filled with the aged and infirm, and then back home, to the joyous laughter of our two little boys, provided me with an unusual perspective on my mother, and motherhood in general. On the one hand, Mom was more concerned about the disruptions to her children’s schedules than her own health. On the other, my frequent absences from home added considerably to the burdens of my wife, Anna, a working mother who is also the primary caregiver to our rambunctious boys. My mother insisted that I not visit so frequently; my wife insisted that I go. Never were the sacrifices of motherhood more evident leaving me to wonder, why would any woman want this job?

Think about it. First, your body changes; soon enough, none of your clothes fit. Even after pregnancy, your shoe collection may become a total loss.

Once your baby is born, you learn firsthand why sleep deprivation is such an effective form of torture. As your baby begins to walk and the implications of their newfound mobility set in, you’ll experience the first in a lifelong series of heart attacks. At no time will you ever stop thinking about your children and their wellbeing. The worry-function in the recess of a mother’s mind never idles.

Food on your clothes will become the norm. Eventually you will turn it into a fashion statement.

Signs of progress will abound, and moms are usually the first victim of it, like the time when, at three years of age, I figured out how to lock the bathroom door – with my mom inside, leaving her imprisoned, soaking wet, with no towels, and no clothes. When help arrived, I was still laughing. My mom: not so much.

I suppose it’s not all bad. For one thing, moms are never alone. Whenever you go to the bathroom or take a shower, you’ll always have an audience. In time, you will come to see the banging on the locked door as confirmation of where your kids are, which you’ll appreciate.

It’s not that the elimination of your free time precludes your favorite activities as much as it shifts the focus. You will still eat, but you’ll have just five minutes to finish your food. You will still exercise – sprinting after your children and lifting them all day. You will still read the Classics, like Dr. Seuss, Brown Bear-Brown Bear, and Bambi.

Clearly, moms possess super-human strength. What else could explain a mom’s ability, on that first day at school, when their baby grips their leg, crying, refusing to let go, to walk away, even though their heart is breaking inside? Moms are also relentless cheerleaders, encouraging us in our pursuits of sports, music, and hobbies, even when they are the ones that suffer. Case in point: what person in their right mind would sit for hours on open bleachers in 108 degree heat in Waco, Texas to watch their son play in a tennis tournament? The answer is a mom like ours, who did it summer after summer.

When Mack the bulldog, Brandy the beagle, or Fluffy the rabbit died, our mom assumed the role of Consoler-in-Chief. In fact, I’ll bet moms have flushed more dead goldfish down the toilet than anyone in the modern world. Our mom was also the Chief Justice of the Household, constantly adjudicating disputes all the while making each of us feel that she was on our side. Is it any wonder that the very word “mom” – M-O-M – is an acronym for “Master Of Multi-tasking?

Then come the teenage years. Each night, moms go to bed wondering how they can become a better mother only to endure those days when their teenage-child tells them just how bad a mother they truly are. At some point in time, moms will have their hearts pierced by the words, “I hate you.” Still, they remain unwavering in their love. Mother’s Day is always on a mom’s calendar. Many teenagers don’t even have a calendar. Yet through every slight, every neglect, every remark said in passion or ignorance, a mom’s love endures.

Moms sit on the sidelines and eventually learn to pick their battles as their teenagers grow and make their own choices – from hairstyles, to clothes, to politics, to music, to the volume of the music, to their doing of all the don’ts’s. At age eighteen, the tyranny ends. It is replaced by a deafening silence. “Knowing too much” gives way to wondering “What’s going on?”

And then, in what will seem like the snap-of-a-finger, the baby you brought into the world will have become an adult. In time, they may become a mother or father to their own child. They will always be yours; they will no longer be yours. Why would any woman want this job? To me, the answer is simple. Who doesn’t want to be part of a miracle?

Mothers are the first woman we meet in life. They are the ones who help us grow. Their love – a love that never pretends, that never asks for nor expects anything in return – enables us to understand, identify, and appreciate true love as adults. It is a sight to behold, a thing of beauty that time and distance reveal for the miracle of life that it is. We, Norma’s children, received more than our fair share from her. Yes, our loss is heavy, but our blessings are far greater. I am reminded of the words of Khalil Gibran, who said this about the loss of a loved one:

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”

For sixty years, through good times, and those less memorable, Mom was our delight. We rejoice in what we had rather than dwell on what we have lost.

Somewhere in Heaven, I choose to imagine that Mom now has the best seat in the house to watch all the remaining tennis matches that Rafael Nadal will play; that she is reunited with her dear friend, Cissy Brown, playing bridge in pursuit of “Life-AFTER” Master points; and that she is taking advantage of the fact that at 4pm, the stock market is closed, on Earth as it probably is in Heaven, which means an early dinner with our father followed by a night of dancing.

Of this, however, I am certain: our Mom is hoping that her children will get along and help each other; wishing that her grandchildren and great-grandchildren will enjoy meaningful and happy lives; and wanting me to express her gratitude to you, the people of this community who, sixty years ago, welcomed the Edsel family to Dallas, Texas and made them feel so much at home.

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