I feel there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.
~Vincent Van Gogh
This quote made me think of something my mom has said many times to people who comment on how talented her children are. In response, she will invariably point out that my brothers and my sister and I got all of our various talents from my father, not from her.
It’s true my dad had many talents—he sang tenor in the church choir, was a wonderful ballroom dancer, designed houses, and was an excellent artist and draftsman. He wrote, he built furniture, and he designed and almost single-handedly built the addition to our house. It’s also true that all four of us kids seemed to have inherited some combination of those talents. My sister is a writer who has written a wonderful children’s book (which somebody out there needs to publish!). She also has “art nights” with her friends, during which they jointly create a work of art. My brother is an award-winning photographer who also writes and paints and plays guitar. My other brother is a finish carpenter who writes poetry and draws. I was a professional dancer, and I also write, design clothes, and draw a little. All of these things make up a big part of who we are, and I know we’re all grateful for Dad’s legacy. However, my mom’s legacy, though not often recognized as such, is just as—if not more—important.
My mom’s talents are those of the heart. By her quiet example, my mom showed us how to treat people with respect and kindness. I don’t remember her ever specifically telling me that all people deserved to be treated this way—I learned from watching her. I’ve never seen her be rude to anyone, even when it might have been well deserved. (I have seen her set someone straight when they needed it, but I have never seen her be unkind.) Store cashiers and bank tellers adore her. The nurses during her stay in the hospital last year went on and on about how sweet she is. Her neighbors routinely tell me, “We just love your mother!” In fact, if I had a nickel for every time someone said that to me, I’d have a nice little nest egg set aside.
Mom is 84 now, and she’s got a collection of ailments that have slowed her down and limited her mobility in recent years. In spite of this, she takes the time to call or visit friends who are ill, make weekly phone calls to my aunt (my dad’s brother’s wife) in Florida who has dementia, and have “tea” every Sunday afternoon with her 95-year-old shut-in neighbor. She still saves coupons for us “kids” and cuts out newspaper articles she thinks we’d be interested in, setting them aside in a folder until we come for a visit. And she still buys me a bag of candy corn (my favorite when I was a child) every Halloween—she even mails it to me if she knows she’s not going to see me.
As my sister likes to say, we definitely won the mom lottery, and I’m grateful to have been blessed with such a wonderful parent. I don’t know that I’ll ever reach the level of artistry my mother has mastered in loving other people—after all, she’s set the bar pretty high. However, I have an excellent role model, and I can’t think of anything more important than passing on her legacy of love.
Mom, on her 83rd birthday