Today was the 24th Mother’s Day since my mom went to see Jesus. Mom was an incredible woman who raised four kids, one husband and several dogs. Mom loved us unconditionally and believed that everyone, including the clerk at the grocery store, wanted to hear about all of our accomplishments. Mom could make my blood run cold with her, “You better cut that out right now, young man” look, but I never once doubted her love and fierce loyalty to our family. Mom had a vision for who God created us to be; here are a few of the phrases she used to instill that vision in all of us:
“You’re a Surratt”
Mom taught me that family identity is something to be lived up to. There are things we did and did not do because we were Surratts. It was not until much later in life that I realized mom was the one who created the ideal we were expected to live up to. She decided who we would be and then willed us to become what she envisioned.
“I’m not Mark’s mom”
Mark was my best friend growing up, and my constant plea was “Mark’s mom is letting him…” I don’t know why I kept going back to this well because it never worked. Mom’s parenting style was not swayed by peer pressure or popular culture, and she seldomed struggled with self-doubt when it came to what her children should and should not do.
“You don’t HAVE to go to church, you GET to go to church”
We went to church a lot. Every Sunday morning, every Sunday night and every Wednesday night. And then we had the dreaded “revivals” when we went to church every night for two weeks. When I whined about having to go to church mom’s response never wavered; you GET to go. Church wasn’t a choice, it was a privilege. That may be why all of her kids ended up deeply involved in the local church.
“Because I’m your mother and I said so”
Mom never felt the need to justify her decisions or to reason with a nine year old. Underneath this phrase was a deep-seated value of respecting your elders regardless if they’d earned it. Mom instilled a clear understanding of authority in each of her kids, even the ones who resisted the most. (I’m looking at you, Dee) I still wear a tie every Mother’s Day because mom said I should. I’ll stop when she decides its time.
“Call me from school if you still feel sick”
Exposed bones or a fever over 102 we’re the only things that kept me home from school. Anything else could be overcome with some Pepto Bismol and a brisk walk to school (We were too close to ride the bus, but not too close for frostbite during sub-zero Denver winters. Mom felt the cold built character.) Feeling sorry for yourself wasn’t in mom’s vocabulary. Mom’s father walked out on her family when she was 10, so she had to help support the family by taking in laundry. She also had to raise the niece when her sister abandoned her baby at mom’s house. Mom knew we could overcome almost any circumstance if we wanted to.
“You can quit at the end of the season”
I sat on the bench the entire ninth grade basketball season. Our record was 1-14. I wanted to quit at Christmas, but mom said I could quit when the season was over. (I don’t think mom understood how quitting worked) In mom’s world you finish what you start, regardless how you feel about it. Surratts don’t quit.
My mom could be tough, but I never for one day doubted her love for me. She pushed me because she believed in me. She believed in all her kids. She believed we were created for something big, something beyond ourselves. She was right.
In the years since mom’s been gone some of the memories have faded. There are fewer days I cry when I think of her. (This is not one of those days) But the values, the character she built in me never changes.
Happy Mother’s Day mom, see you soon.