Why do we honor our mothers today?
Because they carried us inside their extended belly for nine long months of discomfort and pain and nausea? Somewhat.
Because they suffered the explosive pangs of childbirth until we finally got out of there. Maybe.
Because they nursed us and fed us and protected us from every known and unknown disease and sickness until we could walk on our own? Getting close.
Because they loved us -- no matter what we did or said; no matter whether we were bad or good; no matter whether we obeyed or not; no matter whether we loved them back or not? Yeah! That’s the reason. It’s called “unconditional love,” and every mother gives it freely.
Think about it: love with no conditions. Who does this? Our boss at work? Our teachers at school? Anybody?
In the business world, they’d call us “suckers” if we acted this way. If managers forgave insubordination, or even unintentional mistakes, they’d be considered too soft for the job and very quickly replaced.
Think about our criminal system. Kevin was 15 years old, joined a Macon gang, held up a convenience store with an empty gun and served hard time for 10 years with no parole. It didn’t matter that it was his first offense; it didn’t matter that he was sorry; it didn’t matter that he was only 15 years old. Nothing mattered. No unconditional love was available.
But mothers treat us differently. Sure, they scold; they punish too; and some will nag and nag and nag. But their love never stops. When they apply “tough love” it’s still love, and we know it.
There is really nothing in this world quite like a mother’s love. It’s unique: never replicated; never terminated.
Each of us has our own “mother-stories” -- incidents long ago that stay fresh in our minds and pop up when we see her picture or (if we’re lucky enough) see her face.
I’ve heard my wife tell story after story about her mother and I have certainly kept the dinner conversation going long past desert, with stories of my mother.
But the story I don’t tell very often -- because it’s just too difficult to explain -- is the way my mother continued to shower me with that “unconditional love” after I left the priesthood. You’d almost have to be raised in an Irish Catholic ghetto (as I was) to understand the importance that community gave to a mother with a priest son. The mother of the president of the United States would be nice, but nothing like the mother of a priest. For 10 years, she beamed when she said: “Meet my son, the priest.” And then I became a businessman.
Many of my Irish Catholic relatives and friends haven’t spoken to me since that day. It’s different now, but back in the ’60s, priests just didn’t change jobs, and those who did were blacklisted and shunned. It was a disgrace, worse than committing murder. But my mother, heartbroken and confused though she was, continued to give me that same unconditional love that mothers all over the world give to their children, regardless of what they do.
Today we celebrate those mothers. Yours and mine. Mothers who continue to love us, really love us -- with no conditions, no restrictions, no strings attached -- no matter what we’ve done.
It’s time we tell those mothers: “We love you, too, unconditionally!”
Dr. Bill Cummings is the CEO of Cummings Consolidated Corporation and Cummings Management Consultants. His website is digitallydrc.com.