Friday, May 9, 2008

The Personification of Compassion, Conviction & Profound Courage


I usually do not have a hard time writing. In fact, I do it better than most things in my life, and that is because the ability to conjure and spin words has been like a gift from God. Literally. To be sure, though, I do have my moments--those moments when the words just do not flow easily, when the thoughts don't come together quickly. This is one of those moments, I guess. Consequently, I will have to just write from the heart.

With Mother's Day upon us, I have to take a moment to divert my thoughts from all of the perils of this world and, instead, focus on the most influential person in my life. Yup, that would be my mother, Mrs. Pearla C. Harrell Lewis---just in case you had not figured that out, already. LOL.

Now, this is the part where nearly everyone I know will stop and reflect. Then they, too, will join the chorus of praise for mothers everywhere. And they will not be wrong, because mothers are an absolutely amazing breed, deserving of all our praise. Their love and consistency, their giving nature and strength, always give us so much to cherish; they teach us humanity. Consequently, I welcome anyone who can relate to much of what I will say here about my own mom.

Before I tell you much about my mother, I will share a story with you. Though New Orleans is not a big city, it is still one of those places where you cannot possibly know everyone--and that is to say nothing of how many folks here actually know, or even acquaint with, people in Houma. Nevertheless, over a period of the past seven weeks, on separate occasions, I have met two people who know my mother very well. In fact, when I asked those two people if they did (and then told them who I was), their immediate response was to move heaven and earth to give me the greatest of hugs. Then they looked me squarely in the eyes, both saying, "Your momma is an awesome woman of God!" One even explained that she would call my mother simply for the opportunity to pray together. Indeed, the same reaction is true, even in Houma, where people always speak as if my mom is the harbinger of the Second Coming. And all of them are so right, because she is a phenomenal woman.

There are three great aspects about my mother's character that I have seen throughout my entire life. No matter how much adversity we have faced as a family, no matter what the challenge was, my mother has always remained true to these pillars of her being.

The first is her unwavering and often limitless compassion. One thing about my mother that I always found striking is that she has always felt the same amount of love for everyone in her world as she felt for even her children. For us, as her children, there is no mistaking just how deep that goes. She calls us everyday, and will run to Thibodaux, or to New Orleans, or even to Jackson, if she must, in order to be there for us. The same undying love also goes out to her broader family, and in that case, her feelings and her efforts illustrate a tremendous lesson in forgiveness. She could easily have walked away from people who hurt her, who tried to break her spirit, but she never did. My mom has been constant in her love for her entire family. And none of that ended there, inasmuch as she also has showered so many others with that same level of caring. Whether it is a person who walks unsuspectingly into the museum, or whether it's a person who just crosses her path in the course of a day, my mom leaves an indelible impression on their lives.

Much of that love is rooted in her faith. My mom's convictions are the very bedrock of everything that she is, and they govern her life with noticable clarity. People know this about my mother, because, unlike some, she never has a qualm speaking words of hope into anyone's life. What they do not know is that, when she says that she is praying for you, she absolutely means she is lifting you or your family before God. Each day and night, and often in her down time, whether under the oak tree in the backyard or at her desk, you will always find my mother with her Bible and her journal, as well as other texts of prayerful inspiration. In this tranquility, she writes her messages to The Lord, standing in the gap for all of us.

And the third pillar of my mother's character (though her faith should have preceded her love) is her insurmountable level of courage. Underneath all of the soft and warm pleasantries lies a true fighter, a woman who has never been afraid to stand up against any odds. She has always had the courage to stand up for everything that she believed, and she has always has the passion and spirit to go at it. This is a woman who seems to vow that she will never let a challenge destroy her, though many have been incredibly great and overwhelming. And it shows. She has fought her entire life--and won, earning the respect of others, keeping our family whole, and surviving in a job where political forces have constantly maneuvered and lost their own battles.

It is for all of these reasons that I absolutely cherish my mother, and it is from all of these aspects of her life that I have learned so much. Admittedly, I could never be anywhere nearly as strong, and I have my failings when it comes to living out my faith. But, with an example like my mother, I am constantly reminded that there are living vessels of God's Will on earth, and that all of us should aspire for such a high place in this life.

I love you, Mom...Happy Mother's Day!

Gary C. Harrell

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