For years I had watched mothers hug and kiss their children and I was envious. I hadn’t received a mothers hug or known a mother’s love.
When I was little, my parents went through a painful divorce. It was a rough journey for them I imagine. All I remember about it was my father coming home drunk and shouting at everyone. He had a habit of beating us whenever he had a drink. I don’t remember much about my life with both parents. All that is implanted in my mind is waking up one night all alone in the house and to noises coming from my grandma’s little hut. I had no idea of what was going on so I walked there to find out. I walked so stealthily because it was too dark and I was afraid I would meet with a wild animal. There were too many of them in those days. When I got to my grandma’s hut, my other sisters and brothers were there with my father. I think he was drunk because he was shouting. He asked me, “Do you also want to follow your mother?” Without thinking I just said, “Yes.” I didn’t think to say no. Next thing I knew, he had hit me so hard on the head with some hard thing and I started crying. My elder sister took me back to sleep. The next morning, I had no mother.
We all grew up alone. No mother around and practically no father. My father kind of deserted the home. He went to leave with another woman (as I came to learn later). He would make appearances about once every three months or so. We were too young that we never really understood what was going on. It didn’t occur to us that something was wrong. May be it did to my elder brother and sisters but not me. Most of the time we had no food. We didn’t know tea with sugar or food with salt or cooking fat. These were great luxuries and only tasted them when my grandma decided to invite us to eat in her hut.
Many nights we just drank water and slept. These were the nights when my elder sister, Consolata had not been to the neighbors to borrow some maize or beans in the pretext that it was for planting. They never understood but they gave anyway. They wouldn’t understand because, our farm produced a lot of food. We had acres and acres of wheat, potatoes, maize, etc. My father would make sure we didn’t attend school for long periods of time to work in the farm. We all worked so hard. When I was too young to dig, I would be the one to cook. I had to fetch firewood and make lunch for others (that is, if there was anything to cook. Mostly it was boiled maize. My grandma was kind enough to give us some salt to put in the maize.) When the harvest time came, my father was home full time. We were not allowed into the farm. He would hire casual labor to harvest, put the produce in bags and load into lorries to go and sell in other towns. Our luxurious days were after the harvest when we could go back to the empty fields to collect the rejects — those little potatoes that couldn’t fetch anything in the market, or the good ones which had dropped off while they were being packed up.
Then one day we met my mother. I didn’t even recognize her well. She was looking so nice I couldn’t believe she was my mother. I was afraid of her. The atmosphere around her was of a very successful woman and I made sure I kept out of her way as much as possible. She commanded a lot of respect and fear. She never showed any love. If she had it, she kept it hidden inside. She made sure we got the basic needs and we thought this was heaven. e hadn’t seen anything better. Inwardly, I was very proud to be associated to that important woman. I hoped one day the school children will see me walking with my mother so that they can know I was important too. I needed them to know I was associated with a beautiful mother even though I had no shoes and went to school with patched uniform.
We had grown and when I was in college the family went through a very terrible ordeal and I lost my mother again. This time, I knew all that was going on. I knew who started fights, who shouted louder, who banged the door…
When I grew up, I didn’t know about Jesus. No one talked about Him at home. We attended mass but that was just a Sunday routine which to me had no meaning at all. When I was in high school, I gave my life to Christ. My step father was very angry with me as a result. I had no support at home and as a result I dropped my Christian commitment. I finished college and go a job. By this time, I didn’t even know where my mother was or what she was doing. I had heard though that she had given her life to Christ and was looking for a way to come back into our lives. But all of us children wanted nothing to do with her. Our argument was that if she didn’t care when we were young what did she want now.
Then, in March 1999, I rededicated my life to Jesus. This time, “with my two eyes open” and I knew it is what I needed in my life. The Lord has been very faithful to me since then as I have completely given myself to Him. There are days of struggle but I am not alone now. I am with Jesus. At this time, I knew I had no choice but to go to my mother and ask for forgiveness for not wanting her to be a part of my life. I didn’t know how but I kept praying for God to open the way. My mother had completely committed her life to Christ and was working in a local church as an evangelist (she is even today). I started hearing news about her evangelistic meetings and how God using her to change people’s lives. In December of 1999, my youngest brother and I decided to go and see my mother in our rural home. I remember the whole of that week my heart kept beating so fast when I thought I would see my mother again. I didn’t know what to expected but I imagined, with Jesus, all was going to be well.
The minute I got out of the car my mother came running to me and gave me the most beautiful hug I have ever had. We just stood there holding each other with tears in our eyes. I wanted to live in this moment forever, to stay in those warm arms that felt so secure. For the first time in my life, my mother hugged me!
Now I know many people may not see this as unusual but I waited thirty years for my mom to say those magic words, “I love you.” Now they flow from her heart like a fountain.
I praise the Lord for what He is doing in my family. I have a daughter, and trust me, I never stop hugging her and telling her how much I love her. She needs to know. I hope every parent who reads this will learn and always let their children know that they are loved. Never assume that the child knows. Always tell them clearly that they mean a lot to you. They will grow to know how important it is to be loved so they in turn will love others.
And one last thing…
Hug them often.