Memories of Mom


Parenting is a blessed responsibility, and I grieve for those who either don’t recognize its immense importance or, even worse, abuse its sanctity. As I look back on the ways God has spoken to me through my family relationships, my memories of my mother’s love and nurturing come readily to mind. My mother, Rose Sievert, was perhaps the greatest contributor to my happiness and fulfillment, in both my personal and business life. I have many enduring memories of her, but two stand out.

The first happened in my grandfather’s home, the very home where Mom had been raised. I was five years old. Most children will sleep in their parents’ bed at one time or another, but I remember it happening only once. My mom and I were staying overnight at my grandfather’s small home in Detroit. A Polish immigrant of very modest means, my grandfather raised a son and three daughters while working hard as a manual laborer in an automobile factory; his home was small with a tiny guest bedroom, which my mother and I were to share that evening. The only bed in the guest room was twin-sized, so we were close throughout the night. But it went far beyond a physical closeness; I remember my emotional response as vividly as if it happened yesterday.

My mother held me and kept me warm from the very cool breeze coming in through the open window. I remember the strength of her heartbeat against my little arm, which was wrapped around her, and I recall thinking that she would always be there to protect me and care for me. I remember waking in the morning with her still holding me tightly as if she’d never let me go. And I can still recall the fresh smell of the recent rainfall and the sweet sound of the bird that was singing to the rising sun. Life was so simple and safe then.

That experience was a gift from God—a part of His grand design. It was the most important bonding experience I have ever had, and it was the first time I was conscious of my physical and emotional response to true, unconditional, and embodied parental love. As I think back now on the impact of that single experience, I begin to realize the truth expressed by so many psychologists and psychiatrists: maternal love in one’s formative years is crucial, as is hugging and providing other expressions of love to our children. How unfortunate it would be to be deprived of such love—and worse, how devastating it would be to experience physical or emotional abuse from one’s own mother or father.

As I grew older, I could feel the force of that same love in everything my mother did and said. Throughout my adult life, Mom continued to nurture and support me in good times and bad, through various joys and challenges. She was always there to protect and care for me, and she continued to love me unconditionally.

The second memory of my mother that had such impact is something that happened many times in the common setting of a simple kitchen table. I had literally hundreds of conversations with Mom during our private times there, which we fondly called our “kitchen-table talks.” She always told me how much she loved me, how smart I was, and how someday I would “make a difference” in the world. She talked about life’s challenges and how important it was to be true to my values and always do what was “right.” I could go on at great length about these conversations, but her underlying message was, You can become whatever you want to become—just don’t do it in an unethical or immoral way. Her coaching and encouragement centered around two recurring themes: self-esteem and integrity.

Ironically, although God or religion didn’t come up often in those discussions, a lot of moral principles she shared became embedded in my psyche. Throughout my childhood and even into adulthood, Mom always emphasized that I could accomplish anything as long as I worked hard and did so with integrity. Although those chats were never formal Bible studies, she often quoted the Ten Commandments and the “Golden Rule” as ways in which I should live my life. I believed her. I listened and always heeded her advice, which was given out of that great love and protection that I had felt so vividly as a young child.

In the decades that followed those childhood experiences, whenever I was faced with difficult personal or business decisions (which was almost daily), I often asked myself the simple question, What’s the right thing to do? Admittedly, everyone’s concept of right and wrong is a function of his or her own moral or religious upbringing, but it’s a question all of us should ask within the context of our historical character development. In my case, that development was influenced and shaped very dramatically by one very loving and caring woman. Rose Sievert, my mom.

At the age of eighty-three, she took her last breath as she peacefully slept. That was in April of 2001. I miss her loving arms and those nurturing kitchen-table talks.

For Reflection

She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
— Proverbs 31:26–28

I am indeed very blessed by a mother who provided so much nurturing. Even years after her death, it astounds me how many of her expressions of love and encouragement regularly come to mind. There isn’t a day that goes by in which I am not reminded of things she said during those kitchen-table talks. I could not describe my mother any better than this depiction in Proverbs of a strong woman who not only avoids idleness but provides faithful instruction, watches over the affairs of the household, and is considered blessed by her spouse and children.

Do you have similar memories of your mother’s influence on you during your formative years? Think back on what has stayed with you and emerged in your thoughts in recent years. And if those experiences and her words have been submerged in your memory banks and don’t often rise to the level of conscious awareness, then perhaps a focused effort to recall them will bring them to the surface.

The responsibilities and the blessings of motherhood are enormous, and not every child’s story is as joyful as mine. If you experienced a less than ideal childhood at the hands of an abusive or neglectful mother, and have been blessed with children of your own, you may be seeking to turn that experience into a triumph in your own parenting. Although we can’t alter our past experiences, with God’s help, we can learn from them and enrich our futures and the futures of our children.

If you are fortunate enough to have a mother who is still living, I encourage you to reach out to her and express your love and gratitude to her often. And if you have children of your own, I encourage you to give them the gift of loving training and nurturing. In that way, such responsible, persistent, and thoughtful parenting can positively impact future generations.