Today we’re introducing a new feature at Segullah: UP CLOSE. Each month we will focus on a particular subject and discuss it in depth on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings. We welcome reader submissions for these posts. This month, predictably, our focus is Mothers(starting with Kathryn Paul’s fantastic post on single parenting last Sunday). The UP CLOSE topic for June will be Adoption and in July we’ll discuss Inactivity/Faith struggles.
Susan Lew Inouye (pictured below at her son’s wedding in 2007) was born in 1951 and raised her five children in Costa Mesa, California. She passed away in December 2008 of bile duct cancer.
But it didn’t last long. As I sat holding the phone, my son Isaiah, who had just turned two, came up and made an urgent announcement. “Sorry, I gotta go,” I said. “Isaiah needs the potty.”
I swept Isaiah off to the bathroom. I perched on the tub opposite him, tears streaming down my face. Isaiah was cheery and conversational. “Cows poop,” he informed me in his musical two year-old voice. “Horses poop. Camels poop. Lions poop. Every-body poops.”
In that moment I imagined Mom, perching on the edge of the tub and chatting with me as I sat on the potty, cheery and conversational. It must have been like this dozens of times, but I can’t remember any of them, just as I can’t remember all the books I read that she checked out from the library, all the meals I ate that she cooked, and all the times when I must have interrupted her in the middle of her own precious time to ask for help.
Instead of momentous events, my memories of Mom are everyday and almost mundane. On weekday mornings before school we opened the fridge to see a row of brown sack lunches, each neatly labeled, that she had packed in the wee hours of the night before. On Fridays we watched movies that she recorded from late-night TV. On Sundays she herded us to the local Mormon meetinghouse for church.
Every summer she had us enter writing, art, and baked goods in the county fair. Every December she changed all the linens in the house to Santas, snowmen, and fir trees to herald those wonderful, count-able days before December 25th.
Mom passed away on December 16, 2008. As I sat down to write her funeral talk, I tried to find some impressive memory that would represent her and the impact of her life, but couldn’t come up with anything remarkable or extraordinary. Does this mean that she didn’t do anything remarkable or extraordinary?
Just the opposite: the fact that I remember everyday routines, and not momentous occasions, shows the awesome significance of what Mom did for us, her children. Her love and care were all around us-like the water that fish swim in, the air that we breathe. As children we took it for granted. Only now do we begin to fully appreciate the magnitude of what she has done. Day by day, year after year, through the experiences that she helped us to have and through her example of how to live, she created our world.
It was-and is-an extraordinary world. It is a world in which food almost always tastes good, in which learning is exciting, in which service is rendered to those in need, in which God lives and is mindful of us, and in which I am known to have faults and shortcomings but am loved all the same.
I think of Mom especially in small moments with my children: nursing the baby, driving in the car, chatting with Isaiah as he sits on the potty, cheerful and conversational. In these small moments, I understand how she felt about me.
And because of Mom’s example and teaching, we have this faith:
- that this life is a season of growth in which we learn to appreciate the contrasts of human experience: good and evil, sorrow and joy
- that in this life, no suffering or hardship is for naught
- and that every experience has the potential to bring us closer to the ultimate purpose of our lives, which is to accept Jesus Christ’s atonement for our sins so that we may repent, and become a little better every day.
This is our faith, our hope, our expectation. This is the world in which we live.
This is my mother’s legacy, her gift to us, and for this we are grateful.