This Mother’s Day, American Life League employees would like to pay tribute to all moms—to say thanks—for everything. Not only did you bear us, you’ve borne with us through all of our bad deeds, bad moods, and bad times. You’ve been our endless source of love, support, consolation and inspiration. And even if we were able to express all of the gratitude in our hearts for you, for all you have given us and sacrificed for us, you would still be under-appreciated. We want to share with you and with the whole world a memory, a moment, a glimpse of time spent with you, to show you how much every little thing has meant and continues to mean so much.
Bertha Marie Limbourne was never an ordinary person, nor a typical mother. She was much more. My mother exhibited heroic strength in times of personal trials. She exemplified the virtues given as gifts to man by the Holy Spirit by the way she lived her life, not by preaching. My mother was a role model for every aspect of my life.
She has been gone more than twenty years now, and I still miss her terribly. She was my best friend. There was never anything I could not tell her; nor was there any situation for which her wise analysis was not accurate, even when I felt she was wrong.
When her arthritis and accompanying physical problems felled her, and she lay in what I think must have been unthinkable pain during her last years on this earth, I often spoke to her about how I wished there was something we could do to help her, to relieve her suffering, to “make it all better.” And often through the tears, but most frequently with the strength of conviction, she would say that God had His reasons, and everything would be okay.
Bertha Marie Limbourne was not an ordinary person. She was the gift God gave to me, to emulate, to remember, to love as much now as I did when she was a few feet or a phone call away. I love my mother, I always will. Every day of my life I strive to be like her, and I ask God to give me that same inner strength that defined my mother as a person in love with God.
My mother is getting a new house for Mother’s Day. After living in the same home for 30 years, my parents have decided to move. How could they? After all, the little brick rambler on Marshall Place is my childhood home, from where all my boyhood memories stem. Helping pack, I am touched that my mother has saved so many of my childhood artifacts: every report card, birthday card, class picture and trophy. There are boxes of seashells, stuffed animals, coloring books and school papers. I’m reminded that a mother’s love extends forwards and backwards, indefinitely. In keeping these, the trivial and mundane objects that define my childhood, she confirms an enduring and all-encompassing love.
It’s difficult for me to choose a fond memory to share, not because I don’t have any fond memories, but because my mother’s love is hard to put into words. I can say my parents have always made each one of their seven children feel like an only child.
I started playing soccer in grade school and played all the way through college. My mother, a soccer player herself, always came to my games. When it was cold she would bundle up and drink hot coffee on the sidelines. When it was really cold she would watch the game from the car with the heat on. She might have missed a few games, but I know if there was an award for the mother who attended the most soccer games, she would be one of the finalists.
My mother was born with the soul of an artist, but with seven kids to raise, she didn’t have a lot of spare time to follow her “inner voice.” But she’s kind of making up for it now.
Like some septuagenarian graffiti artist, my mom paints pictures on every odd surface available to her: concrete barriers, garage doors, basement walls and even the hallway walls in her house. She’s no Picasso, but that’s okay. My mom will be the first to tell you that Picasso was a “bum” when it came to art.
My mom is also the best storyteller I’ve ever met. Whenever my family returns to our hometown of Milwaukee, I drop my wife and kids off at my in-laws, then hightail it over to my parents’ where I spend the next three to four hours listening to my mother spin tales and recall memories of her life. Some of her stories are old staples I’ve heard since I was a kid, but most are completely new, or changed enough so that they sound new to me.
Last year, she even wrote a novel entitled, But That’s Another Story. I’d try to explain it to you, but like my mom, it’s a complete original and if you don’t experience it for yourself, you’ll never quite understand it. I love you, Mom!
The struggles, challenges and adversities that we face in our walk through life cannot be predicted or anticipated. Faith in Christ is the single-greatest resource we have in facing these struggles. My mom has always placed Christ first, and has set an example to her children by sincerely living her Faith. The lessons I’ve learned from her have made me a better man, a caring husband, and a loving father. I love my mother dearly and I am very grateful for the gift of faith she has helped instill in me. She has a beautiful soul and a blessed heart.
When I was young, I was bedridden for two weeks with pneumonia. Each day, my mother spoon-fed me broth, and checked on me every hour to flip me over to pound on my back to clear my lungs. She did this without complaint, always smiling, as if she had nothing better to do with her time. This was not unusual for her; I often remember her taking care of my sister and me when we were sick, despite maintaining a household and working two jobs, seven days a week to support us. I can still remember the smell of her chicken soup, which, to this day I believe is the best cure for the common cold. My mother has dedicated her life to following God’s will, even when it required self-sacrifice or disappointment. I will always look up to her as an example of what every mother should be: strong, loving and totally dedicated.
In 1981, my mother was diagnosed with a rare degenerative condition that causes her muscles to weaken over time and she was eventually confined to a wheelchair. In 1986 my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Staunchly independent, Mom insisted on caring for Dad at home until he died. I am sure that those were difficult years for my mother—years that could have easily made her depressed and bitter. But my mother’s complete resignation to live according to the Divine Will has always given her the courage to accept her situation in life without complaint.
Never inhibited by her “predicament” (as she calls it), Mom cheerfully gives of herself in love, particularly for her children. When I was in high school, relatives and friends commented about the great responsibility I had being the only child left at home to care for my mother. I hardly knew what they meant—Mom has always taken care of me, determined to help make my life fuller, happier, holier.
This Mother’s Day I think of my tiny, heroic mother, and how she shows me my own smallness—my small faith. And I know she will continue to help me by being my example and inspiration.
My mom and I have had a lot of fun and made many memories. My favorite memory is a Christmas Eve a couple of years ago: My mom and I bought a battery-operated, assembly-required Jeep for my nephew, without realizing how difficult the assembly would be. So, there we were in our freezing-cold garage. I don’t know what it was, but we just couldn’t stop laughing or joking around long enough to get the job done. When we finally finished what we thought was the hard part, we realized that we had about 50 million pages of stickers to apply. For a while we considered just forgetting about the stickers, but we decided that would be a waste of money. So till the wee hours of Christmas morning, we meticulously placed all of the stickers on the Jeep. When we finally finished, I just had to take a test drive. So there I was, 21 years old, sitting on this tiny Jeep with the pedal to the metal. My mom almost died laughing. The look on my nephew’s face the next morning when he saw what Santa brought made a great experience even better.
My mother is raising twelve children. In the thirty-two years that she has been a full-time mom, she has provided each of her children with particular memories woven through joy, sorrow, faith and even the ridiculous. Everything at home was an experience in its fullest, from collecting our clothes Saturday night to be washed and pressed for Mass the next day, to blocking traffic and rolling a ten-foot galvanized pool three miles home so we might have somewhere to swim during the hot and humid summer months.
All of the memories of my mother form one amazing pattern of love, selflessness and consistency. Never once in my years have I heard my mother claim to need time alone, away from “the children.” Mom sought out any moment that could be spent with one of her twelve, making us feel favored and keeping our lives beautiful. Her mornings started early so that she might spend a few moments in the kitchen’s big rocking chair with each of us, and her quick trips to the grocery store became lengthy excursions as she always invited one of us along to spend time with her in the car— just talking. My mother was and is an endless source of time and attention, gentle caresses and moments of pure contentment.