Today I received a call from Toronto East General Hospital saying that they needed to “update me on my mother’s condition”.

Gulp.

For years now my Mom has lived in hospital, most recently in the Complex Continuing Care Unit in Toronto East, just around the corner from both myself and my brother. Fortunately, as scary as a call like that is, she’s okay. She is recuperating from a bout of pneumonia in the ICU. The call got me thinking though about the amazing woman my mother is.

My Mom is quite honestly one of the strongest people I know. She has endured much- not least of which is losing the ability to walk and eat food through her mouth. Yet she never complains. In fact, I sometimes feel like I need to complain on her behalf. She carries herself with a huge measure of grace cloaked in very real love. As I reflect on this truth, I recall the many things I love about and have learned through her.

My Mom knows how to linger with people. She listens. I have always admired her capacity to sit at the dinner table for hours, enjoying food and company. I think about her when I realize I’ve actually been sitting with someone for an inordinate amount of time- surely the clock must be wrong! But it’s not- I’ve just lost track.

A creature of habit, my Mom still listens to the same albums we listened to years and years ago. I love that “Famous Blue Raincoat”- the songs of Leonard Cohen sung by Jennifer Warnes- became one of her first itunes purchases. We listened to that recording constantly. I especially remember singing along during our car rides to the family camp in Killarney more than twenty years ago. I still know all the words.

My Mom never discouraged me from asking hard questions about life and faith and God. On more than one occasion she listened to me and my friends ask, “but why? Is there really a God? What’s the deal?” I endeavour to do the same.

I have learned to love strong coffee, toast that’s a little burnt, popcorn with butter and salt, wine and all things cheese because of my Mom. Definitely things worth learning.

An artist, my Mom often creates the things she gives as presents. I remember her drawing portraits of all her nieces and nephews one Christmas. Much of her art adorns the walls of our house. Though her hands don’t work the way they once did, she continues to create with paint, pencil crayons and pastel. She has even made the foray into digital art. Whenever I feel a creative block I think of her and become inspired. I make gifts of my own now too.

As a single parent, my Mom found ways to ensure we always had enough. Astonishingly, she managed to home-school my brother for a little more than a year because it was what needed to happen. She has moved through life with faith and a willingness to depend on others. As I take the plunge into this new phase in my work life I constantly remind myself of this.

I have learned to appreciate “meaningful piles” (a mom-ism)- you know, the piles of letters and bills and artwork that can easily accumulate in corners of your home.

My Mom’s mom was “Gran” to me; my Mom is “Gran” to Cate, Oliver and Harrison. I love how she loves her grandchildren.

Patience is a word that could be used to define my Mom. She knows patience. I have watched her be patient through terribly difficult situations and I long to be the same. Her very real faith gives her strength beyond what is humanly possible. She knows what it means to have God walk through the valley with her and consistently attests to His presence. My faith has grown because of hers.

I could talk so much more. I could mention my Mom’s prayer life, her humour, her affinity for sparkly things, her curious mind…really it boils down to this:

I love my Mom.