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May 10, 2009: “The Gospel According To Mom, Mother’s Day”

Son of EvaMae Johnson Severance,
Son in law of Catherine Harvie
Grandson of Eva Christina Johnson and Elizabeth Ann Severance (Heath )
Grandson in law of Lily Schoenfield
Husband of Cathie  Lenore Harvie Severance
Father of Cristina Mae, Katie Anne, and Elizabeth Jane Severance

A Freudian slip is when you say one thing but mean your mother.   
~Author Unknown

Sweater, n.:  garment worn by child when its mother is feeling   chilly.  ~Ambrose Bierce
A Call for Help

   A woman telephoned a friend and asked how she was feeling,  
“Terrible,” came the reply over the wire, “my head’s splitting and my   back and legs are killing me. The house is a mess, and the kids are   simply driving me crazy.”
   Very sympathetically the caller said, “Listen, go and lie down, I’ll   come over right away and cook lunch for you, clean up the house, and   take care of the children while you get some rest. By the way, how is   Sam?” “Sam?” the complaining housewife gasped. “Who is Sam?” “My   heavens,” exclaimed the first woman, “I must have dialed the wrong   number.” There was a long pause.
   “Are you still coming over?” the harried mother asked hopefully.

   A little girl who came home from school said that they had learned   how to make babies. Her apprehensive mother asked, “Well, how do you   do that?” And the little girl answered, “Easy, just change the y to   i and add es.”

   Ah, Mother’s Day. Is there any other holiday which we take so   personally? We all live a kind of “Gospel According to Mom,” for it is   often our mother, however we define that term, which is our first God,   however we define that term. Our first Gospel is writ by Mama; she is   the church and the Bible and the divine life giver. The story of Jesus   was that he was born without a human father, but needed a human mother   to carry him to term. Just the opposite of the Adam and Eve story, the   second version where God puts Adam in a deep sleep and takes a rib   from him and fashions a woman. So we can say that Adam was not only   Eve’s husband, but her mother as well! She must have had a tough time   finding just the right kind of Mother’s Day card.

   “Home is the definition of God.” wrote the poet, Emily Dickinson   (1879) in Mabel Loomis Todd, Letters of Emily Dickinson (1894). What a   surprise for us when we get older and find out our mothers are not   God, are not perfect. For some this holiday brings painful memories of   the loss of their mother or even worse when we have negative memories    or a hurtful childhood. For some who would like children and are   unable to have them, this day may be a painful reminder. There is a   religious mystery about birthing, yet it is as common as houseflies.   It is instinctual, yet many of us have managed to mess it up. Many of   us with children worry that we should have parented better, spent more   time in aa would that moves too fast.

     In one of my favorite the comic strips dealing with the family is,   “For Better or for Worse.” It’s about a mother and dad and two kids,   and it’s realistic.  In one episode, the first three segments show the   mother tossing and turning in her bed, worrying about her ten-year-old   son, Michael. She says, “Are we too tough on Michael? Are we not tough   enough? Do we give in too often? Too seldom? Do we listen? Do we   understand? Maybe I nag too much. Am I a good parent? Where are the   answers? How does one know what to do?” In the last box we see Michael   lying awake in his bed saying, “Trouble with grown-ups is they think   they know everything.” (3) 3. Elaine M. Ward, ONCE UPON A   PARABLE…(Educational
 Ministries, Inc., 1994), p. 38.

   Who cares if God loves you if you believe in your mother, that she   loves you! The Gospel according to Mom is written, however, not by   Mom, but by her children remembering back about how they were raised.   There is a Spanish saying that a mother is worth a ton of priests.   There is a gospel which we learn form our mother as well, those famous   words of wisdom, sometimes called “old wives tales, which should be   more accurately called , “old mother’s tales.” Except for the fact   that recent studies have proved medically that chicken soup does help   cure the common cold! And that many old remedies and teas are now   being rediscovered by science  as medically beneficial.

`   Yet without mothers, of course existence would end; for life to   continue birth is necessary. The poet Adrienne Rich writes: “In   creating a situation in which they could nurture and rear infants   safely and effectively, women became the civilizers, the inventors of   agriculture, of community, some maintain of language itself.”

   For some us, the “Gospel According to Mom” is a book of warm and   wonderful memories, of wisdom which has nurtured us through like she   herself, many difficult times and relationships. For others it is too   painful a book to even pick up or to open, especially on this sacred   day of Motherhood. Like the evolving God of the Jewish Bible, the Old   Testament, so too our Gospel of Mom is the story, not only of   creation, but also of the passing years, with great changes in age,   relationships, places, and health. Some of us are mothers, of course,   and so have two books-the “gospel of our mother” and the gospel of our   motherhood. The two books are usually far from the same, though upon a   careful perusal with a rarely objective eye; we know deep down that we   have indeed been reincarnated-as our parents, especially our mother.

   The Gospel According to Mom is not sealed from new revelations, from   new inspirations, but much of it is in the deep of our heart, in the   warm and wonderful memories of a childhood where we were loved, where   we were encouraged, where we were complimented. My Gospel, at least,   is like that. I always felt like my parents actually enjoyed my   company, as I enjoyed theirs. As they invited friends over to the   house or our summer cottage on the lake, we Severance kids were always   made welcome, and usually my parent’s friends had children around our   ages so we got to play with them as well. Of course, as young   children, we were sent to bed for the evening parties, but I remember   the warm feeling I had as I snuggled down in my bed, and Mom would    come up and tuck me in and kiss me goodnight. I liked hearing the   music and the laughter from downstairs. I was blessed with a happy   childhood and a loving mother. She didn’t work outside the home when I   was growing up; it was the 50’s and it was illegal! After all   we   were all watching “Leave it to Beaver,” or “Donna Reed.” OK, so my   mother wasn’t quite like that! This is the 10th anniversary of her   death and Her gospel to me was one of love and acceptance, and I have   come to realize that though she was not a perfect Mom,( even though I   was a perfect child!) she did the best she could with all the   influences and circumstances of her life, and that it is my   responsibility to make of my life what it is and what it will continue   to be. I am grateful for a happy loving childhood where I always felt   loved, valued, and  was taught good moral lessons and a healthy church    and family life; there was always a sense of fun in our family with   much laughter, singing and love.

   With my own family, Cathie has had to work so we could make ends   meet, and being  a specialized teacher, we used to joke, came in handy   in raising our three girls. It reminds me of a story in a wonderful   resource book for Mother’s Day sermons called, The Mother Book,  by   Liz Smith.

   Mildred Newman was a psychologist that Liz Smith knew and Mildred   tells the story about her son Neal who went on to become a brilliant   psychoanalyst. When he was five and a half, Neal had a very bad dream.   So Mildred, a little new to her profession, said to him: “Neal tell me   your dream. I can help you. After all, I’m a psychoanalyst.”

   Neal looked at her seriously and said: “But you’re not my   psychoanalyst. You’re my mommy.”

   Indeed, my girls will tell you about the Hasidic and Zen stories I   used to tell them at bedtime, and that everybody who is famous was   surely a Unitarian Universalist.  I’m not their minister, I’m their   Daddy!

   This day is special as we set aside a time to honor our creator, our   mother, who not only gave us birth but gave us the Gospel According to   Mom. And yes, I have picked out just the right card for both my mother   and just the right card for my wife Cathie, the mother of our   children. I suppose that there is a Gospel according to Dad, too, but   nothing near the importance of Mom’s gospel.

   Perhaps the most difficult part of the Gospel According to Mom is   that children grow up and the relationship needs to change. There has   to be a letting go, and that is difficult for both mother and child.   The wonderful poet Mary Oliver perhaps was thinking of mothers when   she wrote: To live in this world, you must be able to do three   things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing   (that) your life depends on it; and when the time comes, to let it go.

   Let us remember that the Gospel According to Mom is writ large with   love, sacrifice, and age old wisdom. And let us remember that time is   , oh so fleeting.  Our children are babies and it seems like we can   hardly wait until they at least sleep through the night, and then   they’re graduating from high school. Wasn’t it just yesterday that we   were at our mother’s knee, that she was tucking us in, loving us and   teaching us how to love the world. The prophet Mohammed taught: A   person�s true wealth is the good he or she does in the world.

   Let me close with a reading from the Gospel According to Mom, which   by the way, often includes poems and pictures that once graced the   famous Refrigerator door museum. A poem by the gifted poet who just   happens to be my daughter.

My mom

My mom is full of love
Like a dove
She  has three kids
She is the best thing that ever lived
My mom is wonderful
She leads a life that is playful
My mom is a great teacher
And she is married to a funny preacher

I love my mom!!  Elizabeth Severance-age8

   To the mothers of the world we pay our deepest respects and give our   deepest gratitude. To my mother and to the mother of my children, I   thank you from the bottom of my heart, between you you’re responsible   for who I am today; now y’all know who to blame!  May the Goddess be   with us.

Amen, Peace,Love, Shalom, Assalaamu Alaikum, Blessed Be,Namaste,   Abrazo a Todos,Vaya con su Dios

Reading  Deidcated especially to the women who bake-like my   grandmother Elizabeth Severance, my mother in law Catherine Harvie,   and my wife, Cathie Harvie Severance

Are not my hands my own? 
   Adapted from a poem by Bonaro Overstreet

Are not my hands my own?
How is it then
 that I stand here alone in my kitchen
intent upon the making of a pie
and suddenly, my mothers hands have slipped
inside of mine . . . and mine are only gloves
Made flexible by what she wills to do
 with flour and salt and shortening.

I stare down
 my hands proved mine by permanent signature.
And yet . . . their motions I have seen before.

Fingers that hold a pie in midair
Upon their tip that spread to balance it
And I have seen a hand that slid a blade
Around the pie plate, neatly shearing off
Unwanted crust that dangled to the board
 to crumble there in a little heap.

This is familiar. But it was not I
who posed the plate or drew the cutting blade,
that was my mother.

And if this be
how do I know to the last small detail the feeling
that was intimately hers?

Just as she must have learned upon some day
(and felt her fingers halt with quick surprise)
The sense of having other hands slip in
To use her hands, their muscles and their joints
to work an older will with flour and salt.

This is the ancient comfort; the deep knowing
in heart and bone and sinew, that I stand/
never alone so long as I can share
Here in my kitchen, here in my little hour
the modes, the drama of humans, staying above;
A quiet drama played in small sounds
A spoon makes against a mixing bowl;
The little slap of dough upon a board.

So I stand alone within my kitchen
Flour on my hands and centuries at my elbow
As though I had come back to some beginning,
To take another look at chart and compass.