Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Chair and a Mother's Courage

I found this picture not long ago among a pile of others, many of people I didn’t know.

In the background was the house of my early childhood, in the chair was my mother, and  it had to be me nesting inside her belly.

And the chair she sits in---well, there’s a story there.

When my mother died over a decade ago, my sister and I had the difficult task of disposing of her belongings. With homes already established ourselves, much went to charity, but a few things we took with us. I wound up with a set of aging, peeling, metal porch furniture.

I suppose I wanted it because my mother loved it.

Martin Luther said, “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”

That was my mother. No matter what else was going on, she’d still be out gardening, planting roses, salvia, tomato plants, and petunias. Then she'd sit in her porch chair and enjoy her efforts.

We put the furniture behind the studio where it sat for ten years. Then one day, I ventured back there and saw if something weren’t done soon, we’d lose it. The rust had eaten through the metal in many places.

I told my husband I wanted the furniture restored for our anniversary. I never guessed sand blasting would ever top my gift list.

The metalworker we found fit the time-consuming job of restoration in-between other  better paying work. It took over four months to make sure the work was done in such a way that it would last for future generations. Last year in October, we picked it up.

With decades of paint layers removed, I hardly recognized it, but yes, here was a chair where so many memories were made--where I curled up with a kitten in the spring, sat eating watermelon on hot summer evenings,  or read a book in the early fall.

Then I found the picture of my mother in the chair anticipating my arrival. Such a gift.

Just this week, another gift.

Somehow, after my mother’s death, my sister and I overlooked an insurance policy my mother had. This week after searching records, the company made a contact with us after many years in order to pay the claim on this forgotten piece of business. It’s a very, very, small policy. In the life insurance world, I don’t think there’s anything smaller, but maybe it will pay a few dollars on college expenses for the grandchildren.

How poignant we found out about it just before Mother’s Day.

When I see the woman sitting in the chair, I know she’d waited many years for a baby. Her anticipation had to have been high for my arrival.

Little did she know that in the years ahead, she would face terrible private battles--many times struggling alone to overcome. It would have been easy to give up, but she didn’t, and I think  it likely was for the benefit of my sister and I that she endured.  

She planted more than seeds in her garden. By her example, she planted the knowledge in me that we can face many difficult things with hope and dignity.

So, this mother’s day, I’ll probably spend time in the chair, her chair, which I’ve placed on the patio beside my own petunias and salvia. I’ll be grateful for her legacy of perseverance and bravery, her love of gardening, her gifts to the grandchildren she loved, and so much more.

1950's porch chair

And perhaps someday, another generation who faces a challenge bigger than themselves will sit in it, too, remember, and draw strength and inspiration.

What has your mother planted in your life?

“Give her everything she deserves! Festoon her life with praises!” (Proverbs 31:31).

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