How Great Thou Part

My Catholic mother wanted to teach me about love.

She wanted desperately to keep her marriage together. To show me an example of beautifully, in-love parents.

When it became unabashedly clear that she could not…

My mother taught me a different lesson about love.

In some ways, an even more remarkable love.

My Mother taught me…

1. We Could Ultimately Forgive – Believe me there were many times that I saw my parents argue. A troubled marriage rarely ends without it. In those moments, it was difficult for my mother to always do the right thing. After all, she was human and struggling to keep a marriage together with someone who was a drinker. However, in the years that followed, my mother did not hold onto anger, but rather spoke gently of the man who had broken both the hearts of her and her children.

2. We Were Loved – We knew who our father was. Children of divorce are smart. They live the situation. Even if they are temporarily confused by a parent, in the long run, they understand the truth. Our mother did not teach us to live in denial. We understood our father’s drinking problem. We understood that he ultimately made choices that kept him away from us. However, our mother always reinforced that it was an illness that kept him from us and that he loved us and that we should love him. The way she used to phrase it was, “he loves you as much as he’s capable of loving.” In an era, where many women and families would have been ashamed of this and of the fact that the marriage didn’t stay together, she proudly lived her truth and taught us to as well. There was no shame. She was strong and kept us strong.

3. We Were Blessed – I do not remember a time that my mother didn’t think and express that she was a woman who was incredibly blessed. I absolutely remember her worrying about financial things and being stressed or tired. However, I do not remember her ever complaining that she had been left to physically, financially and emotionally raise five children alone. My mother made it very clear that the five of us were her greatest blessings in life and that with us she had everything.

4. We Were Who We Were Meant To Be – My mother did not spend time apologizing or making us feel bad that our father had left. Instead, she reinforced that all things are a part of God’s plan and that this was ultimately how God meant to shape us in life. Her faithful fortitude and lack of overwhelming self-inflicted guilt or pity freed us. In fact, in many ways it made us feel special and not sorry for ourselves. We were not the children of a father who left, but rather individuals who were called upon to live a different path and purpose in life. At the same time, she made us feel absolutely unconditionally loved.

I remember a counselor that we had once seen asking me which parent that I blamed for my parent’s separation. When I told him neither. He was shocked. I explained to him the way my mother had raised us. In fact, though we knew my father was the reason their marriage ended, there wasn’t any long-term anger or pain.

I say long-term, because just as my mother was human so were all of her children. There were absolutely times when we were angry, disappointed and upset with our father.

“Remarkable,” he replied. “I wish your mother were alive today so that I could meet her.”

“Why?” I asked.

“I have been a counselor for many years,” he said. “There is always someone blamed for the dissolution of the marriage, one parent or the other.”

Of course, there was one parent responsible for the end of my mom and dad’s marriage. It’s just that my Catholic mother replaced long-term blame with God having a very special plan for our lives.

I hope to emulate her. I know I attempt to teach the same lessons. I also know that I am still in the very human aspect of divorce.

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