When Yahya Abdi climbed into the wheel well of that Hawaii-bound Boeing 767, the 15-year-old California boy had one main objective: he wanted to make his way to Ethiopia and be reunited with his mother. His father had told him she was dead, but he had learned the truth. She was alive, and he was willing to risk his life in order to see her again.
Such is the pull of our mothers, whom we celebrate this weekend.
Yahya’s actions were both illegal and dangerous, but they underscored, I think, that invisible tug that so many of us feel towards our mothers.
There’s just something about mom.
We can disagree with Mr. Abdi’s juvenile judgment, but we can’t begrudge his heart and motivation behind the risky move.
As someone once reminded me, life doesn’t come with a manual, but thankfully, for almost all of us, it does come with a mother.
One of the most special memories of my mother hearkens back to the weeks just prior to her death. I was 9-years-old. She was everything to me, especially since my dad had abandoned our family when I was five. I loved her, especially the humor she brought into our home. She took life in stride.
But I remember standing beside her bed as she lay sick with cancer, although at the time, I didn’t know what was wrong. She was weak, but she still managed to lift my spirits with her smile. She pushed a few dollar bills into my hand and asked me to go to a nearby store.
The mission? To buy chrysanthemum seeds. I didn’t even know how to spell it. She scribbled the word for me on a sheet of paper.
She wanted me to plant them outside her bedroom window. I felt proud that she hadn’t made this request to any of my older brothers and sisters -- only me. I planted those seeds, and a few short weeks later as they sprouted to life, my mother’s life came to an end.
I remember wandering into the yard the day of her death and spotting those flowers. I saw them as a sign – a reminder that she loved me. She had deliberately asked me to plant the seeds, knowing full well that a little boy would need something tangible to see, especially something so beautiful from his mother. She wanted me to see her in the flowers.
My mother’s wit, humor, and gentle spirit continue to live on in the memories of my heart, especially when I see chrysanthemums.
It was Emerson who once said that men are what their mothers made them. I think this is largely true, and a reason to not only celebrate mom this weekend, but to also lift up motherhood as an institution. It’s not just another “job” or “assignment” – it’s the role of a lifetime because it’s the role that prepares all us for all other roles in life.
On this Mother's Day, my boys and I will be celebrating my wife and their mom, and rightly so. But I'll also be remembering my own mother, a dear woman who taught me how to fall in love with life.
Jim Daly is president of Focus on the Family and host of its daily flagship broadcast. He’s the author of “When Parenting Isn’t Perfect,” “ReFOCUS: Living a Life That Reflects God’s Heart,” “The Good Dad,” and “Marriage Done Right: One Man, One Woman.”