Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"Through heaven's eyes..."

"...And that's why we share all we have with you
Though there's little to be found
When all you've got is nothing
There's a lot to go around..."
-     Stephen Schwartz

Okay, I promise that this will be the last post based on a "Prince of Egypt" song for awhile, but when my talented photographer sister, Lila, sent me pictures she had taken over the weekend during a recent family camping trip, this "senior portrait" of our mom (isn't she beautiful?!?!) made me think of this song.  And I've been singing "Through Heaven's Eyes" ever since. 

The older I get, the more wonderful the tapestry of my mother's life looks to me.  The richer the colors are, the softer the folds, the more golden the patina of each thread woven through her life's narrative.  But I don't know that she sees how beautiful she is…

Mary Baker Eddy says, "The artist is not in his painting."  My mom has woven such a gorgeous tapestry of love that she forgets that all those lush, vibrant threads she admires - as her children, our friends, her own friends, family, and peers - have
her scent, her fingerprints, her tears, her loving view of us…written all over them...twisted through every fiber.

My mother's worth is not in houses, or pairs of shoes, or countries visited.  Her worth is defined by the lives she's touched with her kindness, the laughter she's shared with her children and their friends, the inspiration her journey has been to her own daughters and to other women - widows, single moms, busy homemakers, and multi-tasking superwomen - struggling to be their best selves in the most trying times and under the most challenging circumstances. 

My mother will not leave her children an estate, a bank account, or a vacation home in Provence.  What she will leave us, and our friends - today, and each moment of every day - is an example of courage, a rich legacy of undying humor, generous giving, unconditional acceptance, purity of vision, tireless hope...and eachother, each of us a masterpiece in her eyes.

When I was a little girl I wanted to be my mother when I grew up.  I wanted to be the woman whose children's friends would rather sit at her kitchen table and play Monopoly, than go to a party at a local club.  I wanted to be the kind of mom that could always find another handful of rice to throw in the pot, or mismatched placemat for the table when someone showed up at breakfast, or dinnertime, unannounced. I still do.  I have learned that it is easier to offer someone a five-dollar bill, than it is to offer them a hot shower, a simple meal, and a caring/listening ear at the table while they eat it. 

One summer, just before the start of classes in high school, was especially hard for me. We were living in a little carriage house and Mom was nine months pregnant with the twins…children number seven and eight.  She was HUGE and could barely navigate the daily tasks of caring for a home, disciplining six children, and managing the canning operation that followed Dad's unbridled gardening - without help - while he was at work.  My younger sister had been asked to "nanny" for our uncle who had a summer home on a beautiful lake.  So that left me.  Thus began my summer of trying to
be my mother...or at least be her hands and legs, arms and feet.  I was terrible at it and realized quickly that it took a lot more than a strong, flexible, agile body to replace her.  It took heart.  I think she realized it too.  Before long I noticed that she was close-at-hand whenever I was trying to "replace" her.  She would make me laugh, inspire the younger children to be obedient, give encouragement when the tomatoes splattered and plopped all over the stove and walls from the over-filled, big white-enamel canning pot, and dole out ample portions of her hard-earned life experience with good-humored self awareness from a chair nearby. 

My summer from hell soon became my favorite summer from childhood.  Mom didn't have money to hire help, take me to the movies, or join the local pool.  But she had great ideas for how to entertain the younger children by the edge of a creek at the bottom of our hill...and I would end up cooler and more relaxed in the process.  We couldn't go out to lunch and shop together, but she taught me how to turn fresh picked tomatoes, cucumbers, and basil into a gourmet alfresco lunch for the two of us while everyone else napped in the afternoon.   She didn't have a country club membership, but taught me everyday of my childhood how to set a table graciously, how to greet strangers with confidence, and how to arrange wildflowers into bouquets that would rival anything ever found in the pages of Martha Stewart Living.

Our house was almost across from the high school football field. One afternoon that summer, while I was hanging my third basket of laundry out on the clothesline, a group of football players - who were already showing up each morning for practice before the school year started - came by our house to say, "hi."  There I was in up to my waist in wet laundry, a clothespin apron tied around my waist bulging with wooden clips, and my hair a tangled mess from whatever preschool activities I had employed to keep "the littler ones" from tearing the house apart that morning. 

I was worried that they would think I was such a loser.  I tried to smooth my hair and hide the apron, but to be honest, I was mostly embarrassed by my very pregnant mom sitting in the lawnchair nearby.  I remember one boy in particular, Alan (#53...yes, I still remember) sitting on the lawn next to Mom's chair, still dressed in his sweaty practice jersey, and asking her a million questions about being pregnant, canning tomatoes, and naming twins.  Before long, all of the boys had joined them and I was left to finish hanging the laundry before wandering over into her sphere of warmth and laughter.  I remember thinking that she was insanely different than my friends' moms….but very cool.  

Those boys, especially Alan, never stopped coming by, randomly, to visit her.  None of my friends did.  Our family later moved to a farm 60 miles away. When my dad passed on, it was my high school friends who drove that distance to keep the car tuned up, the oil changed, the driveway shoveled and the leaves raked.   Long after college, my mom was still getting Christmas cards, phone calls, and regular updates from kids I had lost touch with years earlier. 

I have to believe that all the "nothing" she had to give went a long way in nourishing their hearts, inspiring their choices, and defining what abundance really is. I know it did for me.

So, as I looked at this new picture of my ever-inspiring, ever-lastingly beautiful, ever-exasperatingly youthful and active Mom, I can't help but connect her life with the words to this song.  Enjoy the lyrics below and Brian  Stokes Mitchell's performance of
"Through Heaven's Eyes". Perhaps we can all discover that even in all our mortal nothingness, there's still a lot to go around.

"Through Heaven's Eyes"
A single thread in a tapestry
Through its color brightly shine
Can never see its purpose
In the pattern of the grand design

And the stone that sits on the very top
Of the mountain's mighty face
Does it think it's more important
Than the stones that form the base?

So how can you see what your life is worth
Or where your value lies?
You can never see through the eyes of man
You must look at your life

Look at your life through heaven's eyes

A lake of gold in the desert sand
Is less than a cool fresh spring
And to one lost sheep, a shepherd boy
Is greater than the richest king
If a man lose ev'rything he owns
Has he truly lost his worth?
Or is it the beginning
Of a new and brighter birth?

So how do you measure the worth of a man
In wealth or strength or size?
In how much he gained or how much he gave?
The answer will come
The answer will come to him who tries
To look at his life through heaven's eyes

And that's why we share all we have with you
Though there's little to be found
When all you've got is nothing
There's a lot to go around

No life can escape being blown about
By the winds of change and chance
And though you never know all the steps
You must learn to join the dance
You must learn to join the dance 

So how do you judge what a man is worth
By what he builds or buys?
You can never see with your eyes on earth
Look through heaven's eyes
Look at your life
Look at your life
Look at your life through heaven's eyes."

Thank you, Mom...I love you,


  1. Anonymous7:29 AM

    There are many things I cannot give my children that they see others blessed by: lessons of all kinds, interesting trips, lovely clothes. This reassures me that perhaps what I can and do give may be enough.... thank you, thank you.

  2. I loved all these Prince of Eqypt postings.... this song especially brings tears to my eyes when I'm belting it out in my car.

    you are the mom of anyone's dreams...