HomeOpinionOPINION: As Mother’s Day looms, so do lessons learned in past year

OPINION: As Mother’s Day looms, so do lessons learned in past year

This Sunday is Mother’s Day.

This year will be different for me.

This time last year when I was still writing for The Sun, I wrote a column appreciating my own mother – Joan Shields – for the work she did raising me and my wife for the work she’s doing raising our children.

(My wife might argue that she’s continuing the process of raising me, but that’s her column to write.)

I also mentioned in that column that my mother was sick. To be more specific, she’d been diagnosed with cancer in August of 2020, told she was cancer free in the summer of 2021 after surgery and a few months of minimal chemotherapy and radiation because surgeons thought they’d gotten it all, and then was finally diagnosed again in November of 2021 the cancer had come back.

In January of last year, she let me and my sisters know after talking with our dad that she’d decided not to do chemo again because she’d rather live a shorter time being able to really live than to postpone the inevitable and not really be able to live in that extra time, and reluctantly, we said it was her decision and we’d support it.

On March 11, she was told she had three to five months to live. And my last couple weeks at The Sun were full of times driving back and forth to Alabama as we and she knew she wasn’t long for this world.

Mom and dad got married on May 4, 1972. So she was able to make it to her 50th wedding anniversary party at the church they were married in – Murphy’s Chapel in Waterloo, Ala. (just across the state line less than 25 miles from Savannah).

And at 10:14 on Saturday night, June 18, 2022, Joan Shields took her last breath in this life with her husband, three living children, sister and a niece in the room with her.

She and dad raised us to know about Jesus and follow Him. She was a Sunday school teacher, piano player at church and did whatever else was needed at the churches my dad pastored from leading singing to doing kids’ ministry to coordinating vacation Bible school in the days when it was still five days during a week in the summer.

So while my family is still getting used to that empty chair at holidays and other family gatherings, we’re confident in where she is now and she’s waiting for our arrivals in Heaven when each of us pass on from this life.

For those of us who are fans of Alabama football, it’s become cliché this time of year to share a link to the video of a commercial that ran for a few years in the 1970s with legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant talking about how they had freshman players make time to call their parents. It was a commercial for South Central Bell phone company, and the commercial ends with Bryant looking at the camera and asking, “Have you called your mama today? I sure wish I could call mine.”

I just watched it myself to make sure I had that quote correct. And has been the case more times than I’d like to admit with different things in the past 11 months, I’ve come to understand what Bear meant when he made that statement (because I’d like to think he wished he could call his mama even if he wasn’t being paid to say it).

To be completely honest, I wasn’t a great son the last few years my mom was alive. She’d call and ask about how her grandchildren were doing, and I’d tell her. Then she’d tell me about various people back home passing away or getting sick or married or something significant.

More times than not, I’d respond, but not in a way that sounded like I was anywhere near interested in what she was talking about. And she thought I wasn’t interested in talking to her, which wasn’t the case. But I’ve come to the realization that even though communication is what I get paid to do for a living, I’m horrible at doing that with those I love (that may or may not be referencing back to the earlier statement about my wife continuing to raise me).

And after she’d begun taking chemo treatments, they had an effect on her memory, and a lot of times, she’d tell me a story only for me to cut her off before the ending of the story in what I thought was a gentle way of saying “please don’t tell me this story again.”

Now more than 11 months since I’ve heard her voice (she faintly told me she loved me a few days before passing as I was driving down and she thought her time was coming pretty soon at that point), I would gladly take her call today and listen to every story she’s ever told me one more time.

Everyone reading this who’s lost their mother knows what I’m talking about.

And in the past, I’ve read or heard words from those who’d lost their mother who urged others to appreciate and cherish their mother because most every mother who raises a child does so with a God-like love: They love us when we have nothing to give back as a way to earn that love – other than the fact that we simply exist.

I now regret taking that for granted, and I’m trying to make sure I don’t repeat that with my dad while he’s still with us.

But the main point I hope readers take away from this is everyone – older people, younger, family, friends, wise people in our lives, those who may not be so wise – never take any relationship for granted.

Barring some kind of tentpole event in human history like Jesus coming back, everyone you know, have known or will know will die. Whether it’s from an illness that they can have an idea of when it’s coming or in a sudden manner from a health emergency or traumatic event, everyone you know will fail to make it out of this life alive.

You may have different political, religious or lifestyle beliefs and worldviews. They may be of a different race. They may even cheer for a different college football team than you.

But if you appreciate the relationship you have with that person, if they’ve invested in you in some way or helped you, make sure you do your best so they know you appreciate them.

Because the closer you are to those people, the greater the regret is after they’re gone if you fail to let them know.

So, if you have the ability to call your mother, do it. Because just like Bear said, I sure wish I could call mine.

But I know the next time I see her, we’ll have all eternity for her to tell me story after story after story. And I don’t plan on cutting her off then.

Brandon Shields is the managing editor of The Jackson Post. Contact him at brandon@jacksonpost.news. Follow him on Twitter @JSEditorBrandon or Instagram @Editorbrandon.

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