Call Your Mother

An ABC tribute to Gilda Radner some time ago reminded me of the number of people we’ve lost in the last few years who made us laugh: John Belushi, John Candy, Phil Hartman, Bob Hope, Grady Nutt, Robin Williams, Rodney Dangerfield, Jerry Clower and others.

Humor has great value. Solomon said laughter is medicine for the soul (Proverbs 17:22), and sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do is to have a good laugh.

Lincoln, a man who suffered depression or "melancholia" as it was called in those days, talked about the value of humor in the stressful days of the Civil War.

“With the fearful strain that is on me," he said, "if I did not laugh, I would die.”

Lewis Grizzard was a great Southern humorist. But, occasionally, he stepped aside from humor and made some pretty astute observations about life. He did this, I believe, in one of his books entitled, “Call Your Mama—I Wish I Could Call Mine.”

Me too, Lewis.

I guess I thought my mother would live forever. She was a constant in the changes of my life.  But there came that terrible December in 1993 when our family had gathered for Christmas and she was so sick she couldn’t function. I thought maybe she'd worked too hard preparing the house and the meal, but she lay down on the couch and didn't have energy to get up. My wife and sister forcibly took her to the local hospital. An X-ray turned up something ominous, and the doctor thought she needed to go to a larger hospital for tests.

The Monday following Christmas the doctors at Birmingham’s St. Vincent’s Hospital confirmed the dread diagnosis: cancer. In seven weeks she was gone. 

Those were weeks of trial as my siblings and I scheduled time to be with her and take care of things. One of the most stressful rites of passage is caring for aging and dying parents. In addition to the shock of impending loss there's the demands of everyday tasks that must be done.

I read something recently about the trauma we experience when our mothers die. Mothers, the article stated, represent unconditional love, and we're often unprepared for a world in which no one else seems to fill that significant role.

God knew what he was doing when he invented the family and put mothers in them. She is the family's heart, civilizing us and teaching us to care. Mothers fill a niche no one else can. They love us and are proud of us no matter what.

May 12 is Mother’s Day. 

Be sure to call your mother. 

I wish I could call mine.