When I was sixteen I told my mama I wanted to make something in my life that people would remember me for well after I was gone. I longed to leave my impression on history. She smiled at me and told me a story about a time that she went with a group of friends to Hilton Head and a boy carved her name into a rock. A distant look clouded her face. Then she said that was probably the only thing that would carry her name long after she was gone.
That look and the reverberation of that statement made me mad, and stuck with me. Today it still burns inside of me to think of a boy, who is not sitting her today, could control the memory of my mother by scraping her name into a cold weathered rock.
The man I have become could only exist with the guidance of my mother. As a woman I never caught a glimpse or found one speck of jealousy in her heart because she taught me that in this world we all have to make our own way. And even though she always thanked God for the blessings in her life she showed me that regret was a losing game because in the end we judge ourselves more harshly than God would ever judge. We hold our mistakes as talismans because what anyone with half a heart perceived as mistakes are the lynchpins of their character.
I understand that not everyone thinks of my mother as a saint or an angel as I do. She had her flaws as a person, but none of those flaws outshined the beauty of her heart. My mama never found an injustice she was too scared to speak against, just as she never found someone who was truly in need that she would not help. She was never disparaging to any person or any group of people. She made enemies based on how much hate people inflicted upon other people, and even then her ability for forgiveness and to recognize the flaws of our humanity was a resounding inspiration.
As much as I strive to be my own person and to form my own opinions, I am nothing but a copy of my mother’s philosophy because my mother taught that nothing good existed in this world without love. She lived her life by loving every bit and person she could. She led by example and showed me that although the love you tried to show the world would not always be returned, all I could do was give it everything I had and be thankful when it came back to me.
People rarely agree with my opinions, and people rarely understand what I strive to do with my life. That’s okay, because those people were not raised by my mama. People don’t understand that we endlessly give and only hope to receive. That’s why I hope to be half as good as my mama. That’s why it burns my pride to think some nameless boy frozen in the past would be the one person to be privileged enough to etch my mother’s name into the future.
For years I have lived by my mama’s philosophy, but the night she died I held her hand and I carved her epitaph in my heart, and I ask you all to do the same. Love your lives, and the people in it, with everything you can muster. Help me carve her name into this earth with the love that she has shown all of you. And when you receive some of it back smile and think of her and she will always be remembered.