Let’s start with a clarification. Every day is Mother’s Day. There is not a single day I don’t thank God for my mother. The overwhelming influence my mother has on my life became clear when my first book, “East African Folktales for All Ages,” was published in February 1996. I wanted the first copy to be for my mother. I wanted to sit down and write “Thank you, Mama” for what she had done for me. It would be, however, months before I was emotionally stable enough to write her: “Thank you.”
I am who I am largely because of my mother.
From the stories I have shared with the world, life values, philanthropic acts, faith in God and an ability to overcome man-created challenges and acts of God, my mother has been an open book that I have been blessed to own since I was born.
I am the first born of her 12 children and had the privilege of being introduced to living a life of fulfillment even if it defied cultural norms. We washed clothes together. We planted crops, harvested and cooked them together. I still recall a day in 1969 when we worked the whole day. Early in the evening she asked me to take her to a nearby hospital. A few hours later, another brother was born. And like other times when she gave birth, I was the one to take care of the other children — cooking and washing their clothes by myself for several days.
Philanthropy has been misinterpreted by being associated only with rich (another relative term) people. My mother gave her clothes away and fed mentally ill folks. A woman who suffered from palsy was a regular visitor to our home — a two-bedroom mud-thatched structure that was also the home of deadly snakes, rats (vermin, not pets) and ticks. A mentally ill woman, who conversed with people seen only by herself, was also given shelter many nights in that already overpopulated structure — two parents, five sons and two daughters. Mother gave out of the abundance of her needs.
Although she was denied further education by my grandfather as she was about to enter the 6th grade, my siblings and I benefited immensely from what she learned in school. The need for pencils, pens and books is overrated. Mother taught us how to write on the ground using a small stick for a pen. She introduced us to basic English words and mathematics. My best memory is the day she taught me how to do multiplication tables.
How my mother didn’t kill me is a reason to believe there is God. If there weren’t God, she would have killed me and my siblings with the un-prescribed medicine she unearthed from her handbag and gave to us regardless of our sickness. Whether the chronic malaria and stomachaches that I suffered from all my youth or a wound, bleeding nose or multiple bee stings, my mother never hesitated to retrieve an actual pill from her handbag where she stored everything — baby shoes, milk bottles, holy rosary, a Kamba Bible, some money, a handkerchief and Vaseline.
It is the God she prayed to for everything, anytime and everywhere and still does that has astonished me — how he provides her grace and strength to persevere despite both man-made heartbreaks and acts of God. I have written elsewhere about how she was thrust into sharing her matrimonial life with other women, most of whom came and left, and her unusual ability to withstand humiliation and sustain loyalty to the man she loves.
That same God has made her experience, six different times, the worst nightmare for any parent — burying your own child. The latest left us this February. When I called to console her she reminded me that her God is in control. That is from a woman who has buried three sons and three daughters. I have always admired and wanted my mother’s God.
Paul, in Philippians 1:3, says, “I thank my God every time I remember you.”
That is a weighty statement from the heart. I thank God every day for my mother. When her dementia makes her forget who I am, I feel like the world has turned against me. She means the world to me.
To honor my mother, please help with something special to her — education. Please consider sponsoring ($50/month or $600/year) an orphan through Caring Hearts and Hands of Hope, P.O Box 7152, Boise Idaho 83707.
Vincent Muli Kituku is an author and speaker for business organizations, schools and Christian groups. He is the founder of Caring Hearts and Hands of Hope and Caring Hearts High School, a vulnerable girls’ boarding school in Kenya. Contact him at 208-376-8724 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Idaho Statesman’s weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.