The Greatest Gift

So, I don’t know if y’all know this, but my mother is just the most wonderful person ever. I will never understand how, when we live literally a country apart, she somehow knows exactly what I need. We are truly kindreds, my Mama and me.


She recently sent me this blog post just in time for the New Year. You really need to read the whole thing and then explore this amazing woman’s site and then get her app for your phone so you can count things you’re thankful for throughout your day and hopefully not use run-on sentences like I do but if you do, that’s totally cool and I’m so, so sorry if you’re reading this, Mrs. Fulcher.


Anyway, here’s an excerpt of my favorite part of the blog post. It’s after the author, Ann, tells of her daughter, Hope, and the dreadful agony of a botched, but recovered piano recital, something my Mama and I lived through on multiple stomach-lurching occasions. Hope’s adjudicator tells her:

“We are all going to botch it some days. We all sometimes get the notes wrong. But the song only goes wrong when we keep thinking back to the wrong notes.”

When a piece starts to fall apart — fall forward. Fall forward into the next bar. Moving forward is what makes music.”


I’ve been going back and forth a lot between falling apart and falling forward these last few weeks. And, after many conversations with my mother, I find myself falling back to the greatest gift my parents gave me.


I am the baby of the family, the third child of four siblings. This is possible because of the greatest gift. My brother is adopted. The sister closest to me in age was born via cesarean, I was natural, and the fourth to join us was my oldest sister, a student of my mother’s who had nowhere else to go. There has never been a doubt in my mind that we weren’t all meant to be together.


Growing up, our house was always full. There were times when a random classmate or two would stay with us for weeks at a time because their parents were away. Or times when my daddy’s friends would stay awhile while they transitioned from lost jobs, divorce, illness, life.


Our house was always a stopping place for the hurting, the lonely, the people who needed a respite from whatever it was that was hounding them. It was also a sharing place for the joyful, the place people went to spread good news and celebrate successes.


There was the Mexican carpenter who spoke no English but joined us for Thanksgiving and incidentally, brought the most gigantic pan of spaghetti I’ve ever seen, ’cause you know, Mexicans are known for their Italian food. And there were dear friends whose kids left town for the holidays. And there are the many, many students who just felt that my mom and dad “got” them.


Mom and Dad always fostered a community of people who were accepted regardless of where they had been or where they were going. They encouraged, they built up, they poured out. They loved, they loved, they loved.


And that is the greatest gift. The gift of understanding that we’re all falling apart. We’re all hurting. We’re all struggling. We’re all reaching for something. But if we create a community, a safe place of re-purposing and rebuilding, then together we can fall forward.


Just like in music, sometimes a rest is required. Sometimes you need to linger over the notes and let them fully ring out until that part of the song is finished. And then you can fall forward into scales and triplets and codas…and you can begin a new song.


I only hope that I can give so great a gift to my own children.

Mom and Dad on a well-deserved trip to Ireland.
Daddy with Lily in July.
Mama with Mags in Orlando. Nov. ’11


What about you?


What is the greatest gift your parents gave you?


15 thoughts on “The Greatest Gift

  1. Aunt Jeanie

    I am crying right now!!!! (and I’m at work) – that is just about the most beautiful thing I have ever read! No wonder we love having you in our family.

  2. Subject matter aside, this is one of your best posts, run-on sentences and all. Full disclosure: your Mother made me do it.

    With that said, don’t be falling forward into any triplets of your own, ifywimaityd.

  3. Valerie

    Those are beautiful quotes. Music is a great anaolgy (that’s right, right?) and LOL at your super long run-on sentence!! 😉 Your parents sound really wonderful. You were/are very blessed.

  4. I love that you know these things, Mary Susan! That we’re all “falling apart.” We often assume that others have all the luck or their problems are small or they cannot relate to the kinds of predicaments we are facing. But the journey to God is seldom a straight path, and when you know that for yourself, you tend to be more loving and empathetic toward others. You will teach your children that, girl!

  5. Katy

    Geez, Mie. Put a warning label or something on posts like these. Something along the lines of “Those Prone to Tears, Living Abroad, and/or Big Babies READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!” I look like a weirdo crying in the staff room. 🙂 But seriously, awesome job. Mom and Pops are pretty amazing…and you’re alright. 😀 Love you!

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