My first memories of my mother are as scattered as the leaves in an autumn breeze; always present but difficult to grasp. But one memory remains constant and accessible; her soft smile. She had a way of looking at you with such compassion as to calm the scariest dream or assuage the deepest hurt. She embodied love as I have come to understand it. She had a precious smile that was the source of so much peace and understanding.
This smile started with her eyes which shone with the happiness of a pure soul. It worked its way into the corners of her mouth where small lines accentuated her joy. It was framed by her high, rounded cheeks that set everything in place and finally centered upon her lovely mouth… the corners of her lips upturned and her teeth emanating the whiteness she felt inside.
There were many types of smiles that I witnessed like the, “what did you do?” smile or the “I just won at Uno” smile (this one usually involved cheering as well). But she saved her most precious smile for her children! For us, she smiled with her whole body and soul for we were the source of her greatest joy in this life.
I so often would look up from my homework or something else I was really focused on to find that shining beacon of love softly gazing at me with the tenderness that only a mother knows. She was tenderness… tender in her voice, in her actions and in her feelings. And if I, during my turbulent years as a confused, over-energized, totally self centered teenager ever deigned to gaze at that face, I would find myself inexorably drawn in, calmed down, stripped of all the many things I thought were important until I was laid bare . It was then that I felt her love… without all the pomp and circumstance of a growing boy. These occasions helped define me and I have so often wished that I could have just one more moment to bask in the smile of her love. Oh to be a child with the understanding of a man.
A look from my mother was never a small, insignificant thing. In those moments she not only sought to understand but she also bore open her own soul to be examined, hoping that we could share her secret. What was the secret? Love! There is nothing in life that cannot be overcome by love. Love of others, love of what we are engaged in, love of ourselves.
She taught this simple truth with her smile; with her melting gaze. And one day, when my time on earth is also at an end, I will be welcomed into my new home again by that same smile that provided me with the key to getting there.
Dear mothers, when you feel discouraged thinking you are not making a difference… when your children do not offer you the thanks they do not yet know how to express… know that the power of your smile is shaping the hearts of your precious ones. Your heart-felt gaze provides peace and comfort that will last a lifetime. Some day your children will remember… and they will feel the same deep gratitude that swells my heart to bursting.