BALLARD: Mother’s wisdom, influence live on

May 11, 2014 

This photo of Mark Ballard and his mother was taken years ago on his first day of college at the Atlanta College of Art.

SPECIAL TO THE TELEGRAPH

One of my elementary school teachers had asked Mother to stop by her classroom one day after school when she picked me up. Neither Mother -- nor I, for that matter -- knew what the special meeting was about. I held my breath and Mother’s hand as I stood quietly beside her.

“Mrs. Ballard, your son is drawing better than the others in his class,” my teacher said as she shuffled though several of my drawings on her desk.

“I really think he has talent that should be explored,” she said as Mother perused my color crayon drawings. “Unfortunately, this school does not offer any art classes,” my teacher continued. “But, I think you should investigate and find an art instructor who offers private lessons. Mark would certainly benefit from them.”

I looked at Mother’s face as she drove home that day. I could almost see the wheels inside her mind turning. At that time, I had never heard of private art lessons. I certainly didn’t know anyone who taught art.

“Mother, do you know anyone who teaches art?” I asked her as she pulled into our driveway. “No, I don’t,” she answered. “But, I’m going to see what I can find out.”

Money was tight back then, and we definitely didn’t have any extra cash just lying around the house to pay for private art lessons. That didn’t stop my mother. She asked everyone she could and finally found a man who taught art lessons after school.

His studio was all the way on the other side of town and the money we needed to pay for the lessons was even further away. My mother wouldn’t take no for an answer and, before I knew it, I was enrolled.

I know Mother made many personal sacrifices so I could attend art classes that started when I was 8 years old and continued until I received a scholarship to attend the Atlanta College of Art. Every Tuesday after school, I grabbed my art supplies and went to class.

Mother never complained or told me how she mustered up the funds. All she asked of me was to do my best. She always encouraged my creative side even when I didn’t understand it.

“You have been given special gifts,” she would always say to me. “You need to use them!”

When I announced I wanted to paint my bedroom lime green and blue, Mother never said a word or even blinked an eye. “Do it,” she said with a smile.

Encouragement is important to everyone but especially a child. My mother was the queen of positive and encouraging things. From every pore of her being oozed the brightest light you can imagine. Her smile was unforgettable, as was her laugh.

If you ever met Mother, you wouldn’t forget her. She was a special woman to not only me but to everyone she touched. She was radiant in every way possible and wise beyond her years!

That’s the reason I write about her so often in my columns. I want to try to share her magic and wisdom with everyone I can. Apparently, you all have loved getting to know her during the years.

The columns in which I mention her are always my most popular. I can’t go anywhere that some of you don’t mention Mother to me. It always makes me smile that she continues to live on.

Mother also was a great therapist. She would listen carefully to things that made me mad, sad or unhappy and then offer her advice. After she offered it, she always hugged me and ended by saying, “But, you need to listen to your heart and always follow it. It will never steer you wrong.”

Her hugs were just as magical as she was. They had the power to heal, encourage and soothe.

The night Mother passed away, I got the call that she had been taken to the emergency room. It was the middle of the night. As I darted into the hospital, I saw my daddy. He had a sad look on his face that I’ll never forget. “Mark, she’s gone,” he said trying to be strong at a time when strength often times evades us. I just couldn’t believe it! I wanted to have a few private moments with her.

I slowly walked into a very cold, sterile room. I saw Mother lying on a stretcher in the distance covered by a sheet except for her face. Surprisingly, she didn’t even look like herself. All the wonderful things I loved about Mother were gone. The only thing that remained was the body that her precious spirit had once inhabited.

Right then and there I realized an important fact: That wasn’t my mother lying there; Mother was and still remains in my heart!

Mother’s light was extinguished far too soon. She was only 60 years old and I was only 33 when she died. I was devastated that she was taken from me, but she had prepared me to make it on my own. She was so very proud of me in every way. Looking back, she missed so many of my accomplishments for which she had unselfishly laid the groundwork. This part makes me sad!

What makes me happy is I still have Mother with me every single day. Her advice, wisdom and encouragement live on. They made me who I am today. Every single day I rely on them. On this special day set aside for the celebration of mothers, I celebrate mine. But that’s nothing new for me. I do that every day!

If I could see Mother one more time I would give her a hug, thank her and tell her I love her but also add, “Mother, I’m still listening to my heart and following it. I’m still using my special gifts and being positive. But most importantly, I’m still doing my best.” After all, that’s all she ever asked of me!

More with Mark

• Check out Mark’s website at www.markballard.com, for current projects, recipes and lots of other fun stuff and Mark’s tees, prints, cards and his collectible porcelain plates!

• Mark is on www.macon.com 24 hours a day. Videos, columns and articles are featured.

Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call (478) 757-6877; e-mail to markballard@cox.net; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.

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