“Go ahead get in my face yell all you want – make my day. I loved it.” Sam dressed in army fatigues strutted across the kitchen floor. He talked about last week’s JROTC summer camp at an Army base in San Antonio. Joined by 530 top high school cadets across Texas, he tasted military life in 98 °F. in the shade.
“We drank one quart of water every hour, ate what we were told to eat.” Is that a lesson for all mothers across the dining room table? Put on army fatigues, crank up the heat, act like a drill sergeant, our kids will eat what we serve them? I don’t think so!
At summer camp the head brass took one look at Sam, “I remember you. You are going to be the first Commander Sergeant Major leading camp for the next 24 hours starting now.”
No one told Sam what to do, but that didn’t slow this hungry dog one bit. He called me later too excited to sleep, “Mom I set the bar so high no one is going to be able to touch it. I want the top award for the week.” I heard the passion.
Seven days later, sunburned, twisted ankle, thrived with all the pressure, Sam walked away with the trophy. That is when I saw an even deeper gnawing desire that ignited his passion for leading. His conversations shifted from supped up cars to considering a career in the Marines. The United States Marines???
After he had won the top award, Sam’s dreams changed, he joined the U.S. Marines Delayed Entry Program three months later when he signed an eight-year contract with the U. S. military, and it was only October. Did you ever sign an eight-year contract for a job? I saw his smile, inner peace and joy seeped through every pore and knew he was following his heart. I swallowed a mother’s pain.
My baby boy now a young man and he was only 17, made choices only he could; he claimed his destiny. I no longer asked did you wash behind your ears.
A young mother asked how I felt about Sam being eager to explore a military career. “Although I am a pacifist, I support 100% whatever Sam chooses. I believe we must follow our heart and our soul’s path wherever that leads us. Only then will we know joy.”
She quickly replied with a sigh, “I hope I can be as loving a mother like you.”
After high school graduation, he was sworn in. Sam had witnessed my daily mantra: Follow your soul’s path, follow your heart. Trust your instincts.
He shared his dreams, I asked questions and said, “I’m proud. I love you.” I surrendered into my quiet tears.
At first, his Dad was too scared to open his heart enough to support him. I reminded Sam again:
“Follow your heart. Don’t ever make a life choice based on your parents’ beliefs and emotions. That is a recipe for unhappiness. It’s our job as parents to handle our emotions.”
You may wonder where I found my strength to support Sam when it did not match my beliefs. It was grounded in a deep painful conversation just before my mother died, when I was only 27. She reminded me for the umpteen time, “I should never have divorced your Dad. You would have been married, drive a station wagon and already started a family. Instead you worked in Europe and the Caribbean and have not settled down yet.” I heard Frank Sinatra singing I Did It My Way playing in my head.
Becoming a mother is a sacred role that I did not experience until I was 40. After an ER visit at three weeks, due to hemorrhaging I was sent home for 30 days bed-rest. My first time out of the house an 18-wheeler hit the car, and that sent me back to bed. It was very clear my baby was determined to be here, and my life needed to change.
The aftermath of the accident did not make an easy pregnancy. Sleep deprived, no pain killers, no x-rays, I just needed to wait it out. But all that did not take away one moment of honoring the beautiful, sacred role becoming a mother. I felt blessed.
And that is only the beginning. I have yet to hear or read a story that being a mother is easy. Although mine began from inception, I never lost sight of the incredible gift that there is one certain experience that motherhood gifts most women easily – unconditional love.
When mothers hold their babies, it feels like our hearts explode with a love that is beyond Hallmark cards and love songs. And with that love, I feel we have a responsibility, as Kahlil Gibran expressed clearly in this excerpt from the poem, On Children:
“You may house their bodies, but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.”
After witnessing Sam’s last nine years actively serving our country, I watched him become a young man, wise beyond his years. His service fostered an inner confidence high enough to show his heart and gentle spirit easily. I cannot report it was an easy journey.
There have been many blessings. The greatest of them all is meeting the love of his life and marrying Aisha while he served in Japan. They are perfect for each other. One of their gifts is Aisha’s precious love she shares with me as a daughter.
Another blessing among many was when Sam received an Achievement Award from the Secretary of the Navy for his self-initiated drive to rewrite and retrain the Air Traffic Controllers while deployed in Bahrain.
Thank God Sam listened to his own heart and followed his soul’s path. Mothers and fathers do not always know what is best for their children. What we can do is be there without judgment or expectations during the tough times and through their joyful experiences.
The gratitude that I feel for the privilege and opportunity to be a Mom defies my vocabulary. Then when I married Jim I felt that motherly unconditional love expand to include his three children and nine grandchildren.
Thank you, Jim. And more importantly, thank you, Sam, for choosing me. Thank you, God, for giving me the strength to grow and become a mother/grandmother all these children deserve.
It is the gift of being – love.
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