The Abundance by Larry E. Hamilton
It is late January, 2022. I lost my mother last week. She was 88 years young and lived a long, full life before succumbing to cancer and the ravages of time. She was a strong, willful woman who brought five children into this crazy world. Three girls and two boys, of which I am the oldest…by a good bit. Her life was filled with brutal challenges, triumphs, and failures, like the rest of us. Poverty was her ever-present companion. She did the best she knew how to do, though I didn’t always think so. As I now reflect on her life and mine, and the 69 years we spent together, I understand something about her…and myself.
My mother disappointed me at many points along the way, and I know I disappointed her as well. I was quite the ambitious son who could always be found tilting at windmills. Don Quixote and I would have made good traveling companions. I broke a lot of lances in my early years. Mom, which I called her right up to the end, wanted me to be a preacher since she was quite the churchgoer. That would have made her proud. But, I was more interested in working in the rock and roll business, or anything other than the ministry. I am sure that disappointed her, but I wanted her to be excited for the man I had become. A man who was unafraid to try any business venture and exhausted himself in the pursuit of excellence in whatever activity he had a passion for. When I breathlessly described to her my latest adventure, she would always smile and say, “That’s nice.”, but that was about it. I lived in a perpetual and prolonged state of disappointment with my mom’s reactions and lack of interest in my many successes and failures. How could she not be elated with her son’s tales of producing concerts with famous people or owning my own businesses? I was always on the move and would often stop in for a day or two to update her on my latest journeys and escapades. She would listen patiently, but in the end, it was “Sounds like you had a good time…”, and off she went to start a pot of soup beans or an iron skillet of cornbread. Why didn’t she share my enthusiasm? My sense of accomplishment? I always made excellent grades and did what she asked of me. I took care of my siblings, mowed the yard, did the laundry and dishes, fed the pigs (yes, I raised four pigs), ran the sweeper, worked after school, and bought my school clothes by the time I was a sophomore in high school. Sound like I’m tooting my own horn? Maybe, but the purpose of this is to help you understand my frustration with not being worthy of more notice, or at the very least, a few deep conversations about my hopes and dreams.
1: an ample quantity : an abundant amount.
This is the definition of abundance according to Webster’s Dictionary.
What I learned with Mom’s passing is; we all give from the abundance we possess. Unique gifts and abilities for different people. I now see how Mom gave of her own abundance. Not the abundance I thought she should have, but the abundance she was born with.
She always offered me an open door without judgment, a place to rest my head, and all the good food I could hold. She possessed those treasures in great abundance. She was the first to take food to families who suffered a loss or were in need. In fact, when we children would come home from school, we had to ask which of the cakes or pies were for us before we could eat them. Often, they were for people who needed them more than we did. Abundance.
Strangers were welcome at our house, for better or worse. She was willing to take that chance for the greater good. Abundance.
Our home was known for its hospitality…because of Mom. Abundance of the heart.
I have reflected on where my personal abundance lives. It is not in the things she would have been most impressed with. But, I am making my peace with that. I have disappointed many people, many times with my lack of abundance in areas that mattered. I struggled to be a good father and parent. I didn’t have an exemplary role model for that, but I will not claim that as an excuse as so many others do. Stability and steadiness were continually challenging for me. I always had to see what was over that next hill. It was a leftover urge from growing up in the hills and wondering what lay beyond the next one while I voraciously read books that transported me all over the world. I believe my abundance can be found in my writings and in my boundless curiosity. I will let those who know me decide if I gave other things out of my abundance. I hope I have given something of value to those who know me and maybe to those who don’t. Maybe someone has been inspired to question everything and yet believe all things are possible. I love the mysteries of life more than the certainties. Maybe that is what I possess in abundance.
I wanted to read these words aloud to those gathered at Mom’s funeral so my siblings could understand the unique and complicated relationship I had with my mom. A relationship that spanned almost seven decades. I couldn’t. I could not have made it past the first paragraph, so I wrote it instead. I will forever remember Mom’s abundance of the heart and know she gave generously from that special place. That realization has brought peace to my mind and spirit.
See you on the other side, Mom. Thanks for all you did for me. I never grew tired of your beans and cornbread.