The family station wagon headed home for what was probably the umpteenth time that day for a car belonging to the mother of five children. Mom and I were alone, and for some long-forgotten reason, I was upset.
I'm not certain how old I was. Fourteen? Fifteen? What I do know is that I began telling Mom about some perceived injustice I had suffered in my day, expecting her to pour streams of sympathy on the wounded emotions of her little girl.
As we passed the slender, tall palm trees in the median lined up like graceful dancers on a stage, mom surprised me with the firmly spoken words, "Becks, you've got to learn to roll with the punches."
I don't remember anything else about the ride home that day or our conversation, except for two things: For a brief moment I was taken aback by her lack of sympathy, and then almost immediately, her advice struck a chord deep within my impressionable young mind. "Becks, you've got to learn to roll with the punches." I can still see her resolute profile as she stared straight ahead and became more like a boxing coach than the Southern Belle I knew so well.
Like I so often did, I adapted mom's advice for the "punches" life doles out on all of us, and I've been rolling ever since.
As regular readers of my column know, my mom died last year. This is my first Mother's Day without her. But the advice Mom gave me will last forever. As I continue to apply her many words of wisdom to my own life, I also look for opportunities to pass them on to my own children.
Mom was at once both immensely loving and full of great expectations for her children. We always knew her arms and heart were open to us, but we also knew that whining would get us nowhere with this incredibly optimistic woman.
My sister and I have often referred to Mom as the original "can-do" woman. No challenge was too big, no problem insurmountable for her. She was generous, kind to everyone she met, had a marvelous sense of humor and smiled for the sake of others even when she didn't feel like it. Mom faced life filled with endless enthusiasm, high energy and a resolve to accomplish her goals with excellence. And she expected her children to approach the world that way too.
Although Mom led mostly by example, she always kept one eye on her kids and our own struggles, and was quick to offer comfort for broken hopes and hearts, and firm words of guidance when we needed direction.
One particular phrase Mom said to me several times in my youth has served me well throughout the various phases of my journey as a maturing young woman: "Bloom where you're planted." I have recalled these words many times and looked for opportunities to bloom in the midst of less-than-perfect circumstances – from living as a newlywed in a town where I knew no one; while changing what seemed like millions of diapers for my three babies; amidst challenging professional projects; when serving in positions that were great honors, but in which I felt wholly inadequate.
It seems Mom had advice for every situation. As a teen-ager just starting to date, it was Mom who reminded me that I was a child of God and had great value, that to give myself to any boy before marriage would tarnish the beauty God placed within me. As a young woman on my own, I remember calling Mom on several occasions when I faced difficult decisions in my life. Her sweet voice on the other end of the phone always gently asked, "Have you prayed about it? Just ask God to show you." And when I prayed, He always did.
During times when I was overly tired or sad, but still had work to do, it was Mom that told me that if I would make an effort to force a smile onto my face, it would – somehow – actually make me feel a little better, and brighten the room for anyone around. It still does.
Yes, I miss Mom terribly. But in my mind and heart, I still hear her voice, and I treasure and still heed her great advice.
In honor of the great woman and friend who taught me so well, I offer to all the moms out there who take the time to share of their hearts and wisdom with their children, a very warm, very loving, "Happy Mother's Day." You will always be cherished by the ones blessed enough to call you Mom.