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Thursday, May 9, 2013


Today would have been my Mom’s 88th birthday.  Because it falls so close to Mother’s Day I’m finding myself remembering her, the many traits I’ve inherited from her, and the ways that she has influenced me.

At her funeral in 2000, the priest in his homily dwelt on how gracious she was, and I think that was an appropriate observation.  She grew up on a farm in rural Iowa, and never moved away from the state, but from that upbringing she developed an amazing sense of hospitality.

This is the earliest photo I have of my Mom and her two brothers

From early on I can remember our home being filled with relatives and friends during the Holidays - New Year’s Day was an especially memorable time.  On New Year’s Day the extended family gathered at our home to dine on roast goose and all the fixings. What I remember most about those celebrations is the large number of tables that were shoved together, extending our dining room table so that all would fit. At this table three or four generations of people would gather and share memories, stories, escapades, laughter, and love.  We handed down “our story” while at same time created new stories.

Mom as a flower girl for a wedding

As time went on, the extended gathering became smaller and fewer, but that sense of hospitality stayed intact.  If family friends, or friends of my siblings and I, were in need of a place to celebrate the Holidays, they were always welcomed around my Mom’s table.  She was always ready to add an extra leaf to the table, set another place setting, or if need be, add another table.  Her philosophy, although she wouldn’t have thought of it this way, was that there was always room for one more.

Mom's First Communion Photo

As I get older, I recognize so many of her tendencies in myself, perhaps none more then the hospitality around the dinner table.  I host all of the Holiday dinners for my friends, with a few extra dinners scattered throughout the year as well.  Oftentimes, my guests are friends who don’t have relatives in town, or other places to be.  Over time, we have built our own traditions, and have become our own welcoming family.  I know that this sense of welcoming is definitely a trait that I’ve inherited from my Mom.  Her lessons of inclusivity have stuck with me over the years, and I have tried to take them beyond the dinner table and out into my everyday life.

This photo of Mom was taken just a few years before she died

As I remember my Mom today on her birthday, and again on Mother’s Day, I treasure that the word people used to describer her was “gracious,” but more importantly I hope I am able to extend that same gracious welcome to others as I go about my day.

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