Mom on her 57th birthday (2010)
It has been 58 years since a charismatic and complicated young woman gave birth to a baby girl in Southern Minnesota. A very fashionable aunt named the baby Janelle.
In many ways, my mom’s life has been ordinary. After graduating high school in the smallish town she was born in, she moved to “The Cities” and graduated from the University of Minnesota. She spent most of her career working for local non profits. She attended a Unitarian church with my stepfather. She drove used cars, vacationed once a year in Mexico, voted in both primary and general elections, and loved to walk around the Minneapolis chain of lakes in her free time. Her life has had its share of joy and heartbreak, but that’s pretty ordinary, too.
But this seemingly ordinary life has changed everything– and I’m not just saying that because this woman was the reason I came into being, although that’s a pretty good reason to be biased.
A few individuals change everything, and its obvious and measurable to the entire world, for generations beyond– the Napoleons, the Mozarts, the Buddhas. Most of us live quieter lives, and its harder to see the difference. Try picking out one butterfly in a flurry of a million, then discern how that one butterfly affected the air temperature, the current, the state of things. You can’t really do it.
But yet, its true: one butterfly, one human can make all the difference.
Be it raising money to causes she believed in, or making the cashier at the grocery store smile, my mom has spent her life serving others and spreading happiness. Cancer has opened up this generous soul to the boundless love from those to whom she brought so much joy. She has been showered with blessings from coast to coast. Buddhist monks and Catholic nuns chant her name in prayer. She has touched the lives of her immediate family, but also the lives of individuals she has never met.
This life may be a flash of gossamer wing amidst the storm. But the multitudes of prayers, blessings, mantras, and wishes come together in a symphony which sings that this life is a miracle. This life has made a difference.
On her 58th birthday, I feel a range of emotion: anxiety about the future, and gratitude for all the joy we have shared.
And I am filled with awe of this woman, who takes her ordinary life and lives it extraordinarily.
Happy birthday, Mom.