The fact is, I could have been a better daughter.
I could have been less critical. Less strident in my opposition of her way. Less insistent on my right to do it my way.
I could have loved her as she was, and not tried to constantly make her change, to get with the times, to loosen up.
I could have held her in compassion. Seen her through eyes of understanding. Listened with an open heart. Spoken with an open mind.
And mostly, I didn’t.
I was a teenager. A rebel. Angry and confused by what I saw as her dismissal of me. Her disregard for my feelings, my needs, my wants.
I was narcissistic. Insensitive. Unkind.
I cannot change the past.
My mother didn’t teach me that. At 93, she still wishes she could change the course of time, alter its path.
What she has taught me though, again and again, is the value of kindness.
The need for it. The importance of it. The beauty of it.
My mother is a kind woman.
Gentle of heart. Soft-spoken, she has never fit comfortably into the world beyond the beautiful confines of the place where she was born.
She grew up in a then French colony on the coast of south east India. Pondicherry was the place she always goes back to in her memory. Surrounded by 9 siblings, various cousins and aunts and uncles, at the edge of the Indian Ocean, she remembers family gatherings on sun-soaked beaches, monkeys shrieking from the branches of swaying palm trees, the smell of frangipani soaking the air, the laughter of children, the smell of incense burning in the Catholic cathedral where she did her First Communion, changed the flowers on the altar every Saturday in preparation of Sunday mass. And her Amah. The woman who cared for her, helped her dress, helped her learn her arithmetic, do her school work. Be a good girl.
Until she met my father, my mother wanted to be a nun. She wanted to devote her life to God.
And in some ways, she has. She is devout, never without words of a prayer far from her lips, her mantra, “God’s will be done.”
I never understood her steadfast belief, her devotion to someone, some thing she could not see.
For my mother, God was and continues to be real. She does not need to ‘see’ Him with her eyes. She knows Him in her heart and she knows, he sees her. He knows her heart.
And that is enough for my mother.
My mother is a woman of grace.
At 93 she still has a girlish charm and beauty that never fades. Her hands are crooked and deformed by arthritis but her heart remains pure with a Love that never fades, never goes away.
She still does not fit comfortably into the world around her. She cannot understand the violence, the anger, the hatred.
It is what makes her shine with kindness.
Because no matter what is happening in the world around her, my mother will always find the kind word, the kind path.
I was a challenging teenager, a not so nice daughter.
This journey of forgiving the past is a constant journey through Love. Sometimes, my mother and I navigate the waters well. Other times, we struggle. Our history runs deep.
And yet, for all our struggles, because of the depth of my mother’s teachings about kindness, one thing never changes. We are forever bound in a circle of love that began when she gave birth to the woman I am today.
Thank you mom for my life. Thank you for the lessons. The memories and the Love. Thank you for your million kindnesses.