Henry Doesn’t Owe Me Anything

On this Mother’s Day I’m reminded of another valuable life lesson my mother taught me.

When my great uncle Henry died—a bachelor who seldom left his home—his relatives came from far and wide to attend the memorial service and to get their share of the estate. According to uncle Henry’s report there was much to be gleaned.

During his long and lonely life, his siblings had  little time for him. Even now, they left all the arrangements for the funeral, transportation from the Vancouver International Airport and the hosting of guests to our family.

After the funeral Henry’s relatives came to our home. My mother exuded warmth and comfort. Smiling, she rushed around serving coffee, buns and cheese, and tasty squares.

I remembered the many times I had seen mother serving this family. For more than thirty years, she had cleaned Henry’s house, washed his clothes, ran his errands and taken favorite meals to him. Henry was not one to voice appreciation; he was even more reluctant to part with his money. And it seemed he had quite a fortune. We speculated what would happen upon his death. If anyone deserved to be remembered in his will, it was my mother.

After the meal, the table was cleared; the executor of the will opened the envelope and began to read Henry’s last will and testament. As I listened, I couldn’t believe my ears! MY  mother’s name was not mentioned. Henry had left all his wealth to his distant and affluent brother and sister.

Stunned I left the table and began to wash dishes—rather noisily, I might add. I was still fuming when my mother joined me and began to dry the dishes. I could tell by the look on her face that, as far as she was concerned, there was nothing amiss.

“Why aren’t you resentful?” I stormed.

“Resentful?” Mother’s blue eyes registered surprise. “Why nobody made me to what I did. Henry gave me an opportunity to serve God, and I never expected pay. You see, he doesn’t owe me anything.”

He doesn’t owe  you anything? I could hardly comprehend the meaning of her words. And yet when I saw what freedom such an attitude brought her, I envied her. No disappointments that left her reeling in resentment. No room for self-pity. No getting stuck in unpleasant circumstances. She could carry  on her life as before. And in the coming days, she demonstrated that she really meant it. Henry’s family was always welcome to visit in her home.

My mother’s acceptance of life—the good and the bad—without rancor gave her great freedom. Of all the things my mother passed on to me, this was surely the most  powerful.