Sunday, May 8, 2011

Remembering Mom

In 1974, I was newly married, held a part time job, had very little idea of what to do with my life, and possessed no savings to speak of – so what was my plan?

Buy a brand-new car!

A Volvo too: because they retained their value and were overall really great cars. It seemed like a great idea. So, I went to Dad to share my brilliance. So what did he say? – I think he gave me about nineteen really good reasons why this was a risky idea. He didn’t seem impressed by the value that a Volvo would hold, or the low maintenance and safety features. He reasoned I should save for the car, be content with what I had, you know, be patient.

So after my talk with him, I had one with Mom.

She did not disagree with Dad’s counsel. But she did something that was so like her – she thought my basic idea was very sound reasoning. She had no idea that a Volvo could be purchased for about $5,000, run for 100,000 miles, and still be worth nearly the same price – maybe even be worth more than the original when it was sold or traded. She almost closed her eyes when I told her about the ride, the comfort, the stereo system, the safety features – did I mention the cherry red color and a four point AC circulation system? She listened, dreamed, and fell in love with that car. I remember feeling like we drove around the block a time or two during our conversation.

By the way, just in case it seems like a “he said she said” issue, this is not a “criticism of Dad” story. The interesting reality is that I’m a lot like him and would likely give similar counsel if asked about this same issue today.

But the story illustrates something amazing about my mom. She knew how to share someone’s joy. This is not to suggest that things can’t go wrong, but amazingly, there always seems like there’s time to fix things. On the other hand, sometimes dreaming gets bashed by reason. This was not her way. And she had the amazing privilege of dreaming with a lot of people. Not the least of which – was me. Over the years she has listened and affirmed, enjoyed, and approved many of my inner feelings, and especially during their fragile beginnings.

She listened. Mom felt content to be the one not talking. Her love and interest has allowed most of us who knew her to open up and share for as long as we had time to spend. I endlessly processed my ideas with her many times as she listened, affirmed, and learned. This is one of the clear reasons for a life slogan I’ve developed: “Good friends listen, they don’t try to fix.” Most of us don’t really need someone to fix what we’re doing or thinking. We just need someone who wants to hear.

She enjoyed. Mom truly seemed to be pleased by the pleasure others were having telling their story. This quality was what drew me out. It was a lot like preaching. When the audience is affirming, it encourages the speaker. Mom liked the person she was listening to. It wasn’t fake or some type of technique. She liked listening to others’ thoughts and ideas.

She affirmed. What you wanted she wanted too. Her approval was surprising and encouraging. It made you feel smart and having something important to think and say. Now I’m not saying she was gullible or unwise, but if she agreed with your dream, she made you feel like you had her approval. “Mom said I could” was a phrase that I’ve used or thought about using many times after talking it out with Mom.

She shared. Over the years, I’ve sometimes lost the day-to-day contact with my brothers and sister, but never felt I did not know what they were doing. That’s because I would talk to Mom, who had talked to them. She would fill me in on all their news: graduations, honors, jobs, births, deaths, victories, setbacks, answers to prayers, the prayers continuing to be prayed, birthdays, anniversaries, holiday plans — almost anything about anyone was knowable through her. “How’s so and so doing?” These were magic words that opened the door into the lives of a host of people and made my world closer to everyone who was close to her.

I’ve watched these qualities unfold in all her relationships: my siblings and the host of new people she touched, listened to, dreamed with, affirmed the ideas of – and she shared their joy. She was a great mom. And amazingly she was a mom to a lot more people than she birthed.

She believed and loved. Like God, we loved her, because she first loved us. I wonder where she learned that quality? The apostle Paul said, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

Her most obvious quality was that she not only wanted us to know what Jesus did for us at the cross, but she also wanted us to receive this love she had herself received from God. This quality of loving others is at the heart of the Gospel and at the heart of Mom.

Just one last thought – on the Monday morning after my sister, Bonnie Sue, called with the news, Karen and I sat on the bed and held hands. We were stunned, but not yet emotional. And then, the thought came to me as if from some far away source. “They’re together.” She was with the two men she loved most. “My Jesus” (she was the first one I heard use that term) – a carpenter and her Lord; and her lover and dear husband – much more than a farm boy, named Barney. My heart is filled with the joy and deep contentment of that thought still.

“Till we meet, till we meet, till we meet at Jesus’ feet. God be with you till we meet again.”

Post Script: I did buy that Volvo. Aunt Kitty financed it, and we paid it off in two years. AND, sold it a year after that. It did hold its amazing value. In fact, the resale value was so tremendous that we paid cash for our first house with the equity from the car. Now, if you believe that…then you’re not a Bayles.

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