by Dietrich Gruen
This Mother’s Day I invite you to reflect on whatever legacy your mom has passed along to you, while I do the same. The vignettes I share will spark similar thoughts of your own mom, I hope.
Mary Gruen first celebrated Mothers’ Day as a new mom in 1950, the year she gave birth to me. That, of course, was her first legacy to me—life, but she also passed along the legacy of faith. I came to faith in college February 27, 1971, when I experienced a “second birth” at the height of the Jesus Movement, amidst the Vietnam War protest era. When calling home to say, “I found Christ,” my mom had a testimony of her own to share with me, then added, “I have been praying for you, for this God-moment, six years now.” So it is my mom who preceded me and interceded for me in matters of faith.
How about you, were you raised by a mom who prayed for you every day, or are you praying that way now?
Mary Gruen also gifted me and led me into a life of serving others, sharing the love of God. She was a throwback to that era of stay-at-home moms who were fulltime volunteers—in the school (president of the PTA), in scouts (den mother), in her church (treasurer, newsletter editor, quilter), in the neighborhood (community organizer), and in retirement (hospice volunteer). I got to see love-in-action, and grew up secure in that love and learned to find and give love to others in this world.
We all grow up learning what our parent models for us. How about you, what did you learn from the way your mom lived? And if you are a mom, what are your kids learning from who you are?
The mothers we learn from need not be our own. When asked, “What makes you keep on going and giving as much as you do?” Mom would always harken back to a life-changing meeting with Mother Teresa in Calcutta. Mother Teresa, upon greeting her guests, took Mary’s hand in both of hers, saying, “I don’t want your money. When you return home, I want you to look about you. When you look, I want you to see. And what you see, I want you to do something about.”
Mary Gruen did just that, adopting the poor as her life’s calling, serving in places and doing ministry eerily similar to me…. With the Lower Cape Cod Outreach—a nonprofit much like Middleton Outreach Ministry, where I served as its Executive Director (1997-2008)…. In a walk-in medical clinic and drove the elderly on appointments—much like I am doing now as a medical driver with Richwood Transport! Mom was also a hospice volunteer, holding the hand of 25 residents as they died. I would do the same, beginning with holding her hand at her death; six years later I entered hospice ministry myself, as a chaplain with Generations Home Care & Hospice.
Moms do not create either monsters or angels, but provide the conditions—the physical and spiritual and emotional DNA—for what God will do. Moms of all types—midwives and grandmothers, career and stay-at-home moms, praying moms and task-master moms, nannies and nurses, school moms and den mothers—all those women God will use to shape us. Those who bring us into the world, those who raise us in the home, in the faith, in school, on the athletic fields, who work us and pray for us—God gave us the moms (and dads!) we needed to shape us into the person we’ll become.
And we are still becoming. God is not finished with any of us.