During March, we turn our attention to heroic and time-honored women who have made an impactful difference in the world. Many women stand as paragons of might and will to forge attitudes of faith and determination that have penetrated the imposing and looming walls of fear and failure. However, we must never forget the multitudes of unsung women who, with quiet grace and dignity, have likewise walked the halls of our personal histories. In relatively unrecognized silence, they have led the way stalwartly for generations to follow their examples. The impact of their visible footprints embeds equally upon our ever-pliable paths—perhaps more so.
In 1958, my mother, Eileen, became pregnant with her first child. Unfortunately, the pregnancy brought unexpected complications and induced continual hemorrhaging during the entire nine months, placing both child and mother in constant danger. The obstetrician instructed my mother not to overexert herself, advising bed rest throughout the pregnancy. Yet, he offered a curiously specific counsel: she could not raise her arms above her head. Knowing my mother’s self-motivated, industrious, and independent nature, the doctoral guidance required great patience and self-discipline to bear through it. On the other hand, knowing my mother’s tremendous attending, compassionate, and serviceable spirit toward others, I am satisfied that she operated by instant obedience, rarely taking thought for herself and only considering the welfare of her unborn child.
Selfishness readily melts away amid sincere and compassionate service.
At this critical time in her life, Ms. Mary Hook, a neighbor and friend, learned of my mother’s condition and immediately assigned herself to be my mother’s laundress. Each week, in addition to her laundry, Mary would come to the house to collect the dirty clothes, wash them by hand on a washboard, hang them to dry on the line, gather them from the line, iron them, and then fold them neatly in preparation for their reuse. Enduring the course of this repetitive and time-consuming service must have seemed like an endless cycle. Yet, Mary served seamlessly and cheerfully for the full progression of my mother’s pregnancy.
On November 25, 1958, my brother, Murray, was born. The obstetrician who attended my mother quickly discovered (at a time before the technology of fetal ultrasound was widely used in American hospitals) that the baby had the umbilical cord wrapped tightly around his neck, not once, but twice. He determined that if my mother had lifted her arms above her head during the pregnancy, even to hang and remove clothes from a line, the simple action would have caused the cord to tighten fatally around the baby’s throat. Perceptively, a doctor guided, a mother obeyed, and a neighbor served.
I have never met Mary Hook, nor do I know how her life has played out or even if she is yet alive. But, amongst women, she stands as an ever-present, elegant example of the power and influence of women in all history—worldwide and personal. No one witnessed her actions and presented her with tributes of notoriety or recognition. No one lauded her daily labor with shiny medals. No one will find her name etched in sacred memorial walls. And yet, her genuine and generous acts of thoughtful kindness and humanity saved the lives of generations to follow. Humbly, she acted, reminding all of us of the supremacy of selfless service to others.
Of profound significance, my brother Murray lived but a short 45 years due to devastating cancer. Toward the end of my brother’s life, my sister-in-law, Brenda, cared selflessly for his needs. Like Mary Hook, my mother desired to assist Brenda, Murray, and their six children by collecting, washing, drying, ironing, folding, and preparing the clothing, tirelessly lifting her arms fully above her head in service to them.
Gracious and good women bless the daily course of our lives and living with their altruistic gifts of character, capability, compassion, consideration, and care. Such accomplishment deserves our contemplation and gratitude. The great standard of remarkable women modestly marks the making of a more beautiful life.
I invite you to share stories about the great women in your life history who deserve your accolades of recognition and gratitude.
R. Shannon Mock
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