Mother’s Day was yesterday. With it comes a tremendous sense of gratitude for the profound influence of those women whose influence has been that of a kind mother. Because of that influence, I am going to take a moment in this blog to share some of my thoughts on how the mothers of my world have helped me learn to prize both style and substance.
First I wish to acknowledge Shelby Gould, whom I called my Summer Mom. During the summers of my pre- and early teen years, she was constantly on hand. My two best neighborhood friends, Donald and Tamara, and I spent countless hours running around our street in small town Utah, swinging wooden swords, broom handles (that we imagined as lightsabers) and riding bikes that would change from horses to star fighters. When weather prevented our outdoor gallivanting, my Summer Mom allowed us to take over the entire downstairs with Lego’s and action figures and play sets galore. She frequently included me in activities as though I were one of her own, including the inevitable clean up and yard work. She also fostered an appreciation of all types of music, music that became part of the soundtrack of my life. She helped solidify in me the ideas of responsibility, of following through til a job was done. She was a woman who influenced me in the pursuit of style and substance.
Second is Kathy Garff. Kathy is the wife of Bob Garff, the man who was my mission president while I served a mission for my church in England. She became my Mission Mom. She was always on hand to offer a smile, a hug, and the encouragement that I so desperately needed when I was thousands of miles from home. She always spoke to me of my ability to handle challenges, of the greatness of my heart, and of the way that my smile, my laugh, and my musical gifts brought joy and hope and peace to everyone around me. I was often lonely during this time of life, but she had the uncanny ability to find me in my loneliness and refocus my attention on others, and on the gifts that I had and that I could give that would help them bear the burdens of their lives. She was a woman who influenced me in the pursuit of style and substance.
Next is Christie, my angel wife. When I first met her, I found her attractive. As I grew to know her better, I found her intoxicating. During the ensuing years of our marriage, nothing has changed. One day during the early stages of our relationship I had occasion to see her with a child, babysitting for some friends. Her gentle handling of a tired and overstimulated two year old was mesmerizing. Being an only child, little children were something of a frightening mystery to me. I had no framework for things like temper tantrums, changing diapers or even how to help a little child get dressed, but Christie handled it all in stride. I fell even more deeply in love with her at that moment, knowing that she would be a wonderful mother. And she has been, to each of our five children, at each stage of their growing up, balancing firmness with gentleness in the most beautiful of ways. Gratefully, she has extended the same blessing to me. She has encouraged me in the chasing of my dreams, my gifts and my service to others at every opportunity. She is a woman who influences me in the acquisition of style and substance.
Of course, my own Angel Mother is foremost in my pantheon of these loving and supportive women. From my earliest memories of listening to me sing, play the piano, tell stories, and build science fiction toys from Lego’s, stray pieces of wood, cardboard and masking tape, she has always been there to encourage me. From the darkest times when I wondered if I could endure another day of difficulty and sadness, the mere thought of her could give me reason to carry on, to hope, and to try once more. She has been an example of patience and faith in the midst of illness, sadness, and the impartiality of life’s challenges. She never let me avoid the difficult tasks, however, and frequently she played the role (uncomfortable for her, though it may have been) of disciplinarian and Guardian at the Gate. She was clear about what was right, what was wrong, and how choosing wrong in any degree would lead to unnecessary heartache and pain. She was constant in her encouragement of accepting responsibility and following through on a promise. She was the first, starting me on the path to understanding and championing a life of style and substance.
While I have spoken about the way that each of these women embodied and encouraged substance, make no mistake. They all were women of elegance and grace, each in her own way. They all knew how to make a home beautiful and welcoming. They all knew how to dress with an eye to being classic and timeless, but also to be aware of the trends and delights of fashion. They each guided me to being more than a brute, to appreciating refinement and the arts at least as much as I enjoyed roughhousing and outdoor adventuring and games.
I said earlier that Mother’s Day brings a sense of tremendous gratitude for their influence. I must admit, along with that gratitude has come a portion of guilt. The guilt is borne of a feeling of not having quite measured up what I imagine my mother’s wished for me. And while I doubt any of them
would say they feel the same, I am grateful that my journey is not over. I still have time to grow, to change, to more fully become a man of style and substance.
In the meantime, I thank them for the encouragement, their support and their love. Happy Mother’s Day to the four mothers of my life, and to mothers the whole world over! We who seek to be men of style and substance are in your debt.