|My amazing mother, Doris Roy Melancon, and me|
I don’t have to look very far to find the person who’s modeled the personal strength of patience throughout my entire life.
As we honor mothers this time of year, I reflect with deep gratitude on the ways my own mother has positively influenced my life through the consistent application of patience with people and situations.
Thinking back to my growing up years with five other siblings, I can count on one hand the number of times my mother showed frustration or exasperation with one of us. And every one of those situations warranted such a reaction. We weren’t angels.
What’s even more remarkable is that she had to manage this large brood on her own quite often because my dad’s work required regular out-of-town trips.
It’s only as an adult that I can fully appreciate her ability to maintain a calm, serene demeanor in the face of the daily twists and turns that six children presented her with.
She excelled in paying attention to the needs of others and responding in a way that was just right at that moment. She never seemed to get bored re-reading the same book with us for the 30th time. Or explaining how to perform a specific task. Or waiting.
She did a lot of waiting.
Trips to the doctor when my sister broke her collarbone. Or a brother put his face through the glass door. Or my dad cut the tendon in his knee when using an axe to cut up tree limbs.
No matter what the situation, my memory of her in each one was the epitome of patience.
This strength was never required more – nor was it ever more evident – than during the last months of my father’s life in 2012. Almost on a daily basis, Dad’s ability to do things for himself diminished. This proud, self-reliant man was reduced to utter dependency for every aspect of living.
Mom sensed his frustration with this loss of independence, and she consistently spoke to him with compassion and love in her voice. After 64 years of marriage, she understood her husband to the core, and she was totally committed to making sure his final days were filled with as much love and positive interaction as possible.
Her tone of voice was something to marvel. No matter what he requested or tried to do, she maintained that calm, reassuring presence that I’d witnessed all my life. I’m sure there were times that she was scared, exhausted and overwhelmed. But the face she showed Dad was supportive, tender and serene.
When I’m in a situation where I start to feel impatience creep in, I just need to summon the image of my mother with her children or with my father. Her behavior provides a model for my response. And it serves another purpose. It reminds me how incredibly lucky I was (and am) to have been raised and supported by such an amazing woman.
“The practice of patience toward one another, the overlooking of one another's defects, and the bearing of one another's burdens is the most elementary condition of all human and social activity in the family, in the professions, and in society.”
Lawrence G. Lovasik (1913-1986), Catholic priest and author