Updated: May 30, 2020
Let us start with a brief disclaimer for the benefit of the skeptic and/or critic in our midst.
My parents were not perfect because those do not exist. If I chose to, and sometimes in my life I have, I could write out a pretty long list of their shortcomings. Thankfully, I have gained some wisdom over the years and realized that in spite of their shortcomings, I had the best parents a girl could ask for. I believe they were divinely chosen just for me.
So this piece is not just to express my thankfulness for my parents, mother particularly, but also to praise my God.
As I grow and mature, hopefully growing in wisdom, I learn to appreciate and give thanks for my parents and the heritage they gave me. As a result I have understood that any material wealth left behind is of little value compared to the memorable, intrinsic care and teaching born of a deep love demonstrated in so many ways.
Even though this section is dedicated to my mother, both my parents contributed to the formation and building of my character and get credit for much that I could be complemented for. They are top of the list of my many blessings.
So often we look to the media personalities for symbols of wealth. We spend too much time envying others’ material possessions, concluding they are the fortunate ones, the lucky ones. In truth one can have all the trappings of wealth but be very poor in love, the most valuable gift of all.
My parents demonstrated that the truly wealthy are the givers of this world. They gave of their time, talent, skills, emotions, resources etc., they loved without requiring any payment in return. They did it because they serve a loving and powerful God whom they endeavored to obey.
The Random House dictionary of the English language describes wealth as a great quantity of store of money, valuable possessions, property, or other riches. It also defines wealth as an abundance of profusion of anything; plentiful amount. My parents made me feel wealthy by giving me an abundance of love. A richness of sacrificial provision for my welfare; plentiful quality time that made me feel I was not only important to them but special.
I often think of my mother as one of those women who were born to be a mother. Nurturing came naturally to her and she raised her thirteen children and then some (nieces, nephews, cousins), and touched the lives of countless others. I hope everyone have the opportunity to meet and have a relationship with such a woman. She proved that our capacity for loving others is limited only by our willingness to act, to love. Many called her ‘Mam’ and experienced that nurturing experience not restricted to her biological children. She gave a plentiful supply of love and encouragement coupled with instilling a sense of responsibility. Her capacity for loving others and encouraging them by seeing and expecting the best in them was constantly demonstrated. She applied this to all young people who came into her life. Mam was good at building you up, letting you know in direct and indirect ways that she believed in you.
At my mother’s knees I learnt many profound lessons:
* That material goods are transient and fleeting but family and good friends are invaluable and should be nurtured and treated as such. Whenever she was in need she appealed to her God to care for her need. When He answered, she knew of others who were also needy and shared with them. These occasions are etched in my memory; a prayer for a protein source to complete the meal (she was big on balanced meals) – the arrival of a fisherman or butcher at her door – watching her divide into sections the supply she had just received – being sent on an errand to deliver that unsolicited gift – the response of the recipient – thankfulness. To this date, for me the gift that I receive the most satisfaction and blessing from is the one that is unexpected and fills a real need.
* Real wealth increases, it can be invested, and is not affected by the Wall Street market or natural disasters, etc. When I meet people of varying ages who share with me the impact my parents life had on their own, I understand the investment part. I have been able to receive the trust of strangers based on the reputation of my parents – that’s an heir receiving return on her parents’ investment.
* The wealth to be valued is not purchasable, it is invaluable. It is not just property; it appreciates undeterred by the circumstances. Is not always comfortable, in fact often difficult, but it is always building, it helps you grow and for me it is a valuable inheritance.
My mother’s devotion to us was tangible. She was fully involved and contributed significantly to my life even though my worldly education went beyond her own. This was no easy task, considering she had thirteen of us but for her it was worth it.
** I am often awed and humbled when I reflect on what I inherited of supreme value. I learned to value people over things; that things only mattered if you were able to share them with loved ones. I learned that loving someone often meant exercising ‘tough love’. I learned that being unselfish and giving of yourself often had much greater rewards than focusing on self. I learned that the ability to say no or yes honestly without being offensive was one of the most important aspects of personal freedom. Even though we sometimes thought my mother took on more than she should, I have not met someone who could say no more graciously.
I was blessed with a mother who was self-reliant, generous and skillful. She truly believed that learning to take care of oneself (male or female) was paramount to having the ability to provide for self and help another. Caring for yourself meant being able to cook, clean, wash etc. no exceptions for her children whether male or female. She would say that if you were in a bind, working for someone in the capacity of a cook or housekeeper could be an honorable option until you achieved your goal. ‘There is no shame in work,” she often said, “but there is shame in idleness. My parents embodied a wealth of knowledge abilities and skills which they passed on to their kids during their lifetime so that to this day we have an incredible legacy of talents which I pray we can pass on to our children.
My basic needs were always met, often beyond my expectation. Many years ago my older sister was editing an essay I had written for application to a university and noted a statement that I had written to the effect that ‘even though we could have been considered poor by the world’s standard, I never felt poor’. She emphatically reminded me that our family was never poor. She went on to point out that we never lacked for anything. In fact we always had enough to share with someone less fortunate. I have never forgotten that conversation. It was added to the archive of so many more insightful conversations that I have accumulated during interaction with my family, starting with my wise parents and continuing on with my siblings. The neat discovery along the way has been that many of those wise words and principles are actually found in the Bible.
Self-expression was encouraged with no tolerance of disrespect of the other person. ‘Mam’ always emphasized that there is room for more than one successful person in a group, family, class, country etc.
Our parents gave us a sense of security that we could rely on them for support and that we were an important part of their life. They provided an environment where learning and growing was encouraged, curiosity understood and enthusiasm applauded. My mother had a special place in her heart for teachers and she did not hesitate to vocalize this. It is a tribute to her influence that ten of her thirteen children were teachers at some point in their working life.
My parents are one my greatest blessings and my mother continues to be top of the list of strong wise women in my life whom I try to emulate. I learned so much from her, that I feel that if I can pass on to my children a few of those lessons I will have done her proud. My mother believed that you should prepare your children for life and they will not only find but be able to make the most of the opportunities. As Mam used to say, “You teach your children to fish and they will never go hungry.”
My wealthy inheritance is imbedded in the practical manifestation of a deep belief in God and his promises, trusting God implicitly, using god’s material blessings wisely, and generously sharing what you’re blessed with both in terms of material gains as well as gifts and abilities freely with others.
My dear mother showed me by example how invaluable moments with loved ones are, how to be thankful. My only regret is that I did not have time to tell her all the things I loved and appreciated about her. For those who still have your mother with you, please don’t miss the opportunity to express your love, in words and deeds… forgive, don’t sweat the small stuff…it’s the love that’s most valuable.
Copyright© 3/2016 JSFontenelle