Articles written by me on Self-care and Palliative Medicine
On Self-Care & Palliative Medicine

Mother Lode

Each Mother’s Day, we celebrate the “Moms” in our lives. As nurturer, protector, and provider, Mother symbolizes safety and unconditional love. We build on childhood memories and imitate our parents, as we too, become parents. Even when childhood realities did not provide the idealized Mother/child experience, we still tend to embrace the notion of nurturing Mother, and welcome the concept into our daily lives. For some of us, Mother has no biologic connection, but is the individual who made us feel special, and safe, and unconditionally loved.

Carl Jung wrote the following about the Mother Archetype. “This is the mother-love which is one of the most moving and unforgettable memories of our lives, the mysterious root of all growth and change, the love that means homecoming, shelter, and the long silence from which everything begins and in which everything ends. Mother is mother-love, my experience and my secret. Why risk saying too much, too much that is false and inadequate and beside the point, about that human being who was our mother, the accidental carrier of that great experience which includes herself and myself and all mankind, and indeed the whole of created nature, the experience of life whose children we are? The attempt to say these things has always been made, and probably always will be, but a sensitive person cannot in all fairness load that enormous burden of meaning, responsibility, duty, heaven and hell on to the shoulders of one frail and fallible human being–so deserving of love, indulgence, understanding, and forgiveness–who was our mother. . .”

Support systems are essential to good mental health and happiness in our lives. We all need to be nurtured and loved to be healthy and fulfilled. So celebrate the relationships in your life which provide you with the greatest sense of security and self-worth. The lessons we learn from such love persist for a lifetime. In a wonderful poem, Mary Oliver provides a poignant example of Mother-love and its enduring power.

Answers

If I envy anyone it must be
My grandmother in a long ago
Green summer, who hurried
Between kitchen and orchard on small
Uneducated feet, and took easily
All shining fruits into her eager hands.

That summer I hurried too, wakened
To books and music and circling philosophies.
I sat in the kitchen sorting through volumes of answers
That could not solve the mystery of the trees.

My grandmother stood among her kettles and ladles.
Smiling, in faulty grammar,
She praised my fortune and urged my lofty career.
So to please her I studied–but I will remember always
How she poured confusion out, how she cooled and labeled
All the wild sauces of the brimming year.

Mary Oliver

Stephen L. Hines, M.D.
May 2000

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