Updated: May 5
My mother liked to swear in French.
Perhaps it was her Canadian roots and desire to be French Canadian for the pure glamour. Perhaps it was her way of avoiding real swearing in English. But the expression my mom loved, "Mon Dieu Sacre Bleu!" was always used when she wanted to show astonishment or shock.
Hearing it in French sounds like you might be ordering a good glass of white wine. The literal translation in English - "My God Holy Blue!" does not sound very astonishing or shocking. It was most likely a leftover of going to school in a convent, being watched over with severe discipline by nuns. Definitely a time and an era where that statement would most certainly have been shocking. Like most things from my mom, her actions always held deeper reasons behind them.
If you met my mom in her youth, you would call her a vixen. She was a red-haired beauty with watery blue eyes and curvy looks that always made men swoon. Compound that with her Julia Child cooking skills and creamy Canadian skin, and you had a fiery stunner. Setting aside all those things from her glory days, what remains with me still is an even greater quality -- her deep ability to listen.
My mom listened to people like it was an Olympic sport. I mean really really listened. Her listening presence became her superpower to connect with others. With complete transparency, sometimes her listening was to get what she wanted. But most often it was because she absolutely loved nurturing and it embodied who she was as a person.
As a kid, things just showed up when my mom was doing her listening thing. Repairmen would shower her with free repairs. Food delivery reps would shove cases of steaks and ice cream into our deep freezer. (remember Schwan's - the original Uber Eats!) As she became older, I noticed things like expensive perfumes, pretty purses and giant containers of mints that would magically conjure themselves in her tiny apartment. When questioned where she got them, she would wave a hand and pronounce profound gratitude about how people loved to bless her.
Right. I knew why. She was using her superpower again. I knew it well as a kid and witnessed it happening right up until she died at 80. My mom loved to listen. She treasured taking the time to understand everyone who crossed her path. She heard them, asked real questions, and was fully present to see them exactly where they were. People from every walk and in every season bloomed in her presence. And they loved to bless her for that rare gift.
In fact, now that my mom is gone, I can remember only a handful of things she said. She certainly was not a saint and like me, deeply flawed. But the thing that stayed with me was the quiet presence of seeing me and hearing me in ways no one else did. Listening was truly her gift.
I long for that ability to deeply listen as my mom did. I'm working on it still, but I'm grateful for her example through such a simple thing - listening well. My invitation and encouragement to you this Mother's Day is to find something you love about your own mom to celebrate. No matter how small, or how grand, no matter if she is on this earth or in heaven. No matter if she is deeply flawed like my mom was and the mom I currently am. My hope is that you will take a moment to be fully present to the tiniest of gifts your own mom bestowed, even if it's simply the life she gave you.
One of my favorite expressions is "Live your life in such a way that was worth putting your mother through labor for." This Mother's Day, I hope you will take time to celebrate the life you have been given for the one who labored to give it.