I am heartbroken to share with you on this Mother’s Day that recently my mom was diagnosed with a serious illness. An illness that will take her from us sooner than any of us had expected.

Sherrae Phelps and I recorded this podcast episode last year, long before my mom’s diagnosis. The plan was always to publish the episode for Mother’s Day, but it feels particularly poignant to be releasing it now, in light of this diagnosis–to be celebrating my mother’s impact on me as I confront the reality of losing her.

I am so grateful for my kind-hearted and generous mother.

When I was young, it seemed to me that my mom had less influence than my dad (he was a professor, a church leader, and had a more dominant voice in our family). But, over time, I have come to see and appreciate just how influential my mom has been—not only in my life but in the lives of countless others. 

My mom has the tremendous gift of being able to see the good in others. She genuinely cares about people and easily celebrates them for who they are, however divergent their backgrounds and beliefs may be. Throughout my childhood, my mom would welcome those who were in need of friendship or support into her life. It wasn’t uncommon for us to have visitors staying at our house or sitting around our dinner table. Caring for others comes easily to my mom—the genuine friendship and acceptance that she offers has blessed the lives of so many.

Because of my mom’s ability to see the good in others, it has always been clear to me and to each of my seven siblings that we are cherished by her. She relates to us as gifts in her life and believes that we are inherently worthy (even when we have been sure she was mistaken). She never tried to turn us into anything different than who we were—she didn’t pressure us to be people who would make her proud. She was already proud of us, just for being hers. Having a parent value me so unequivocally fostered a belief in myself early on. Through the way that she has lived, she has taught me to care for others and to trust in a God who loves and accepts me, even when others may not.

Although an unassuming person, my mom has always been determined to create a meaningful life. Consistent with her focus on the Good, she’s an optimist, one who looks towards possibilities. For example, in her seventies, she started a raw vegan snack food business; at age 89, she signed up for ballroom dance classes–even though doing so terrified her–and she has danced nearly every day since. Lately, she has been focused on improving her German and studies it regularly. She is always trying to expand her life. And even in the face of a devastating diagnosis, Mom has remained hopeful and resolved to live every remaining moment wholeheartedly and without despair.

The truth is, my behind-the-scenes mother has had a tremendous positive impact on the world. She has spread her influence by living wisely and through her honest care for others. This disposition has been supported by her faith which has asked her to love others and to live hopefully.  

At ninety years old, she is a woman full of life and genuine beauty–she exemplifies feminine radiance and intuitive wisdom. Her life has demonstrated that the power of love, humility, and grace can make the world a better place. I am so grateful for her–grateful for her influence on me and on others. Grateful that she is who she is, and that she has shown up in her life the way that she has. She has given me so much. 

Thank you, Mom. I love you so very much.

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