Tribute to motherhood: A vocation without a vacation

Headshot of Peter Sweeney
Peter SweeneyGeraldton Guardian
Shelagh Sweeney on her wedding day, April 28, 1952.
Camera IconShelagh Sweeney on her wedding day, April 28, 1952.

To one who bears the sweetest name,

and adds a lustre to the same,

who shares my joys,

who cheers when sad,

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the greatest friend I ever had,

long life to her for there’s no other,

can take the place of my dear mother.

This poem was engraved on a kettle-shaped ornament in the kitchen of the Sweeney family home.

Simple words, but so sincere. So true.

I believed that from the first time I set eyes on the words in a gift shop many, many moons ago.

Sadly, it was confirmed to me on April 18, 1991, when my mother died.

Mum (Shelagh) suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for much of her 67 years and I cannot recall seeing her free of pain.

Much of the time she was restricted indoors and was often in a wheelchair.

There was so much gear around — walking sticks, frames, calipers and the like — that the Arthritis Association could have borrowed from us.

But the home was free of complaints, never a whinge.

Mum has to be the sweetest word there is.

And my mum sure added lustre to her life and that of everybody else.

She was there to share any joy; more importantly, she was never absent when times were testing or traumatic.

My greatest friend without a doubt.

No matter how long we live, life is short.

And no matter who else, or what else we have, nobody can take the place of a mother.

To me, and so many others, Mother’s Day is the most important day of the year.

That is because we regard a mother as the most important person there is.

The emptiness at not having a mum cannot be filled, but countless happy memories — and the knowledge that I was so lucky to have had a mother who was so inspirational — live on.

I wish all could say and feel the same about their mothers. But for various reasons, many cannot.

That is sad. I pray that those lucky enough still to have a mother will make her feel special.

If a family dispute has split you, make up now.

Saying sorry doesn’t hurt anywhere near as much as living with regrets.

So often mothers are taken for granted.

Their calling to motherhood is a vocation.

Rarely, if ever, do they have a vacation.

Days after my Mum went to heaven, Dad, the (then) surviving half of a wonderful and dedicated partnership, called his five children together.

He had five sovereigns in his hand and told how Mum had come across them many winters earlier.

She wanted them passed on to her children.

My sovereign is worth little in monetary terms, but it will not be exchanged for the world.

In this materialistic world, things can be replaced.

Once they are gone, mothers cannot be substituted.

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