If you read last week’s article, you know where I’m headed this week. If you didn’t, read the beginning of this story here.
I’m listening to Stephen Covey’s most popular book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I read the book when I was in my early thirties and recently came across a book-on-tape with Covey himself discussing the habits. As I listen, I realize how much Mom understood those habits although I doubt she ever read the book. I’m listening to number three right now: Put First Things First. Sometimes that habit eludes me, but she had it figured out.
“Putting first things first” sounds simple enough. The principle is based on deciding where the things we want to do fall into one of four categories: “Important and urgent,” “important and not urgent,” “not important and urgent,” or “not important and not urgent.” Once desires are put into the matrix, it’s easy to see how to spend our time.
Mom’s first things were always first: faith, family, music, and friends. In my myopic memory of living with her for the first 16 years of my life, I don’t remember anything taking precedence over those things. She did the “important and urgent things” and planned for the “important and not urgent.” I don’t remember any time she spent on not important things. I believe those who knew her best during that time in her life would agree that she kept her priorities in order.
As a young adult and young mother, I continued to watch her spend time in church, with her family, singing and enjoying music, and with her friends. Our relationship was not without quarrels, but that was most likely my immaturity and not her doing. She has always had a kind, gentle spirit – although she could be feisty at times.
All of Mom’s children are feisty, determined, and strong-willed. I used to think those attributes came from Dad alone, but after spending these last dozen years close to Mom, I know we received them from both parents. Mom can be quite stubborn – as can I – so it’s easy to see why we collided in my youth. (Perhaps that’s the real reason Mom sent me away to high school!) Her wonderful attributes outweighed her less-than-attractive ones, however. I hope that can be said about me one day, too!
Mom loved to travel and most of the road trips she took with Dad involved going to visit family or friends. My sister lived in Germany and Mom and Dad went over as much as they could. They were present for the births of all their grandchildren or there immediately afterwards. She cleared her schedule to stay with me for a full week after my babies were born. She cooked and did laundry and held babies so I could rest. When we moved to Clarkesville, I was completely overwhelmed with a new house, three small children, and driving back to Perry to fulfil a commitment that summer. She unpacked most of the house and put the kitchen together while Dad did lots of grandchildren stuff.
The tables have now turned and it’s my time to care for her. She is an important part of my “first things first” at this stage in my life. It’s not an obligation; it’s my privilege. She dedicated her life to her faith, friends, music, and friends. First things. As I sit beside her, I realize how much she still has to teach me.