Sunday, May 17, 2009

Imitating Mother

"But we all, with open face beholding as in a a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Corinthians 3:19)

My daughter-in-law celebrated her birthday on Saturday. Since May 16th is also my mother-in-law's birthday, I spent the day wishing Bri had known her. And then I realized...

if you know me, you know something about LeOra.

When my father-in-law first laid eyes on me, he was stunned. I flew down the street with youthful exuberance and landed in his arms. All he could think was: “LeOra! She’s LeOra! ” Sweethearts since childhood, he remembered her well at the same age: eighteen.

I am a lot like her, or so people have told me. One of those times was on the day of her funeral. Elisa watched me flutter around Mom’s kitchen, trying to take care of things. Though she’d been married to Mother’s brother for nearly fifty years, I’d only met Elisa-from-California once before, so we were something of a revelation to each other. With wonder, she finally articulated what she was thinking.

“Ramona,” she said, “You are LeOra.”

Mom was raised in a less active home, as was I. We both married young: at 18. Each of us was the only (pampered) daughter in a family of boys. Our children were of the same number and gender. We shared shoes, wardrobes, music, and theater.

But it was more than that.

She was my mother.

In the most classic sense of the role, she nurtured me through young adulthood and young motherhood. She taught me overtly. She taught me by example.

In my first year of marriage, I watched with awe as she just talked to people. How did she do that, converse with so much ease? Each person she spoke to was touched and uplifted by the simplest comment, the most ordinary communication. How did she do that? I wanted to be that.

She taught me how to cook chicken soup from scratch. She taught me how to make homemade noodles. She taught me how to put a Sunday roast on the table.

"Mom,” I often phoned, “How do you...” and then I’d ask a question so basic it would be embarrassing to ask anyone else.

She explained a lot through the years as she pruned a rose bush, trimmed the shrubs, fertilized the trees, pulled the weeds. I know she hoped some of it was sinking in, but mostly I watched her puttering around the yard.

I gradually absorbed her good taste. As a young wife, without a comparable bank account, I couldn’t shop from the same upscale department stores that she did, but I tailed along anyway, and learned loveliness.

Though Mom wanted to be a writer, most of her writing is in her journals; a spiritual pursuit she wanted me to learn. She loved the gospel, the work of the Kingdom, the divine principle of family. I watched how she honored, respected, sustained, supported, and cared for her eternal companion and the Priesthood. I experienced firsthand her employment of patience, long suffering, charity and forgiveness. She taught me how to have faith in people who seemed not to want it or deserve it.

She taught me to love spirituality. She taught me to love the Brethren. She taught me to love the scriptures. She taught me to love the Church. She taught me to love the temple and family history.

She taught me to not be afraid of missionary work, or trials, or repentance.

She showed me how to turn my kitchen into a concert hall, how to sing old tunes and dance jigs with babies. She held my hand when I gave birth.

The phone rang on an August afternoon. Dale said Mom had suffered a stroke. As I prepared to meet him at the hospital, I knew that I would not leave her side.

The last words she heard were mine: "I love you Mother.”

Her funeral was nothing less than majestic with nine-hundred people filling the chapel and cultural hall; yet I knew, in the midst of it all, that I was special to her. I felt the Spirit assign me to remember her, by representing her, for the rest of my life.

I’m not worried about what happens after that because when the Lord releases me from mortality she will come for me.

And then all I will have to do is imitate mother.

Muse with me: Who have you tried to emulate? Who are you trying to lead to Christ through your example?


Ashlee said...

My husband tells me I am a lot like my mother. I accept it as a complement! I love my mom!! The other day a lady asked me if my 2 year old son is more like me or my husband..I said well, his personality is more like me, but he looks more like my husband. I think it's because as mothers it is our nature and 'calling' to teach and mold these young ones just as we have been molded by our mothers. My father took part, but I think my mother did the most!.. I like Abraham Lincoln's quote..."All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother."

Teri said...

Wow, tears come easily today. This was beautiful. Who do I try to emulate? Such a difficult question. There are things that I try to emulate from a variety of individuals. From my own mother, her testimony of the gospel, from an aunt, finding joy in adversity. From an MIL, love of family, from my friends, love and service. What a lovely post! Thank you!!!

Melanie said...

My own mother is definitely my example. She is 84 and still going strong as an example of faith and righteous endurance. I probably look more like her than any of my sisters, and that makes me happy, because she is beautiful. She taught early morning seminary for 11 years so we always considered her a "gospel scholar". She took care of Dad at home, after his first stroke, till his final stroke 5 years later.
The most amazing thing is her never ending energy as she does her genealogy, gardening, and making quilts for all of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She is so cheerful and loving. She even enjoys some great family games. I'm so glad that my daughters, daughters-in-law, and now my granddaughters are getting to know her.

Harrison said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lois Brown said...

What a beautiful tribute to an amazing woman. And you are all those things so you must have learned the lessons well (although I think you came with some of those attributes on your own) I of course have wanted to emulate my mother who is such an example of strength, faith and testimony, and of course women of the scriptures. Most recently my beautiful daughters and who they have become.

But because of a experience at an Aunts funeral several years ago, I know what I hope that I have emulated.

I have a beautiful aunt that was french and prided herself on being a gifted cook and semstress. She made all the dishes that the great cheif's make. She made all the Debutant ball gowns in Louisiana where she lived and later in life she and my Uncle competed in Ballroom dancing. At her funeral everyone talked about what a great cook she was, about the meals she had prepared, about what a great seamstress she was and all the ball gowns she had created, and then last but not least what a great dancing partner she was and then in turn that she was able to create such beautiful gowns to dance in as well. Very little was said about her service in the gospel, about what kind of mother she was, about her testimony and even though I love this aunt dearly I remember being shocked.

I prayed right then and there that the type of things that would be said about me would be about what a good mother I had been. That I had tried to be a good example and have a strong testimony as the mothers of the stripling warriors, that my faith and temple attendance would be remembered, that I had been a good daughter and honored my parents, etc.... basically all the things that were said about my grandmother at her funeral and what will without a doubt be said about my mother! I pray that I will carry on the tradition of strong, faithful, obedient, service oriented woman. That I will be known as someone who stood for Jesus Christ at all times and in all places as my mother and grandmothers did before me. Most of all that I will be like the beautiful christ centered women that are my daughters.

I hope to be like them some day!

Harrison said...


Of all the things I can think about LeOra Z, the first and foremost is:

She was the most Christian person I have ever known.

And you do emulate her!

Thanks for reminding me of her. She passed when I had only 3 months left on my mission and I felt sad I couldn't "return and report" with her. (But of course, there are "compensatory blessings" no?)


Sue said...

Mona - every time you talk to, teach, play with, sing to, read to, do the dishes with or love our three little ones - I am taking meticulous mental notes. That way, I'm hoping to turn into a REALLY COOL mom, like you. Thanks for adopting our family!!!

Terresa said...

I'm hoping to be an my own children, my nieces and nephews.

I'm hoping to own mom and mom-in-law (in different ways). And strong women in my ward and circle of friends who are leaders, huggers, fighters, lovers, believers, and strivers, day after day.

Heidi said...

What a wonderful post. And such a sweet tribute to your mother-in-law. Thank you for it. There are so many people I long to be like: Sheri Dew, Kristin Oaks, my co-worker, my former roommate, you!, other very dear friends, my sister, and especially my father and my mother. I believe if they face life in all of its joys and sorrows with energy, joy, and positivity; love the Lord and His Gospel; and are true examples of Christlike behavior, then I cannot help but want to be more like them. I am blessed to have so many of those people in my life to aid me in my quest.

Sam and Suz said...

I knew LeOra. What a beautiful lady, inside and out. She left such an imprint on everyone. Loved the blog. Everyone says I am Linda, Jr., named after my mother (mostly because I look like her and have her strong personality). Hopefully I can emulate her for her dedication - to her family and those around her. She would rather serve at the soup kitchen on Christmas day than anything else. I am glad that she couldn't give us a lot of "things" growing up b/c we have memories that matter: working hard, having free fun, charity, and being a close family. My son loves her more than he loves me :)

Devon said...

That was a beautiful post. I think I have spent quite a bit of my life trying to emulate people I admire--mostly people I perceive as having a calm disposition (I don't...sigh...) but lately I too have found myself being more and more like my own mother. She's not a member of the church, but she is an amazing example of the Savior she chooses not to know--she serves, loves, teaches and mourns with others. And I want to emulate her in all that.

As for others I'm leading to Christ, I am trying with my son.

Mama Smith said...

There is a wonderful line in Proverbs 31:28 that says: "Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her." Other than being told "tho good and faithful servant" this must be close to the top of all blessings one could obtain in one's life. I will one day...rise up...and call my "grandmother" blessed....She LIVED the gospel of Jesus Christ, but not as a "member" of His church...yet, she was an EXAMPLE of how one should live throughout their lives...

2busy said...

What a wonderful tribute to your mother. Such a great example to many people as witnessed by her large funeral.

Heidi Ashworth said...

So beautiful! It is not often that a woman and her mother in law have such a harmonious relationship!

Emu Monkey said...

Thanks! What a great day for me to remember all the mother's in my life and how their examples truly have brought to pass the person that I am.

Judy said...

I have always believed that the Lord sends people into our lives to "shore us up" when there would otherwise be a vacancy. Your "Ruth/Naomi" relationship is truly sacred. Now I am convinced that my supposition was true.

McAuliffe Bunch said...

I have always tried to emulate my mother. She has always been such an inspiration to me. My mother was always so strong and was so unselfish. Knowing that my mother had always been up doing things, it was so hard to watch her succumb to the cancer that eventually took her from this life. But, in all her suffering, she still left me an example to follow. She didn't stop caring for others even when she couldn't fix herself. Now, if I have difficulty, I ask myself how would my mom handle this situation?
She taught me to love the gospel and to stay close to the Lord. I feel wholly inadequate to the memory of my mother. But I do find it comforting when somebody tells me that I am just like my mom. At times I don't feel worthy of that compliment, but I am still trying to emulate her.
I am trying to pass her legacy on to my own children. I want so much for them to know me as a mother who is faithful, kind, patient, and everything else my mother was.

Sues said...

Thanks, Mo, for such a loving and beautiful tribute to Mom. I've been thinking about her so much lately, wishing I could somehow just "beam" her back to earth. Some of my favorite times with her were when she and I would lie down on her bed, side by side, staring up at the ceiling, and just talk. Mom was the most gracious person I have ever known and I think about her example every day. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about her!
Love you!

Lilia H said...

What a beautiful tribute to Lee, you really have honored her not only in word but also in action.
I can't believe how much you two looked alike, it's great to see such a resemblance. I will always remember Lee with fondness, admiration and appreciation. As you said, she was a gracious lady that left a positive influence all around. I too try to learn from my own mother in law. I see in her so many attributes I want to develop myself. Thank you for this message. This is the first Mother's Day and didn't call my lovely mom home, I did however, talked to her through prayer, I miss her terribly yet I know she's happy in heaven. What a blessing a good mother is to us all, what a privilege to have known them so well.

Mona said...

Thank you my dear friends for your lovely comments about LeOra, as well as your own mothers, aunts, and mentors. Absolutely beautiful.

Larsen's said...

Thank you for your beautiful words. You are a beautiful person!

I think that I try to emulate my mother's honesty, compassion, and empathy. I also try to emulate my mother-in-law's ability to mother her children!

I am trying to lead anyone that I come into contact with to Christ. I hope that my family (Mother, Brothers and Sisters) will see my life and be drawn to my happiness!

Mainly, I really want my children to watch how my husband and I are and learn by our example so that we can have the wonderful eternal family that we all are desiring.

Thank you Mona!!

Love, Cindy

There's no place like home said...

What a tribute to Lee as I knew her. She was such an example...I really felt so much love for and from her. This brought tears to my eyes. Who do I try to emulate?? Soo many people..including my father--his sense of humor, patience, unconditional love, many of the women who mothered me when my own mother couldnt--and there are many. My first Young womens leader--she was so elegant, fashionable, beautiful--BUt she MADE ALL her clothes, refinished her home herself, was always refined and loving while fighting diabetes. I also follow in my grandmothers and their mothers and what I know of these women, their history and how they lived their lives with grace. All of this combined makes me..ME.

Kaylynn said...

I always loved the story of Naomi and Ruth. Naomi must have been like your Mother in law: loving, nurturing, kind, and had a great love of the gospel. Nice to see scriptures come to life in real people. Thanks for sharing!

SpeakAboutRND said...

Ramona, I love you sooo much. Thanks for sharing your words with me. I really needed them. =]]
Siarra Spruill

TPlayer said...

I'm lucky-because I knew both of you in my youth. Thank you!

Nishant said...

love of family, from my friends, love and service. What a lovely post! Thank you!!!
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