By Rev. Kenjun Kawawata
This Sunday we celebrate Mother’s Day, a time to think about mom, but also about the life we live.
Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother at St. Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. Isn’t it interesting that Mother’s Day actually began with a memorial service? Today it’s observed in this country on the second Sunday in May.
My mother passed away more than 40 years ago. However, her teachings and discipline still resonate in my mind. I remember the delicious meals she made. Now, whenever I cook something, I try to make it taste as close to my mother’s way as I can. My tongue remembers those flavors, which to me, means her life exists in my own being.
As a tribute to Mother’s Day, I’d like to share a poem written by Rev. Haya Akegarasu, expressing his gratitude and love for his mother. Rev. Akegarasu (1877-1954) was an important Jodo Shinshu teacher who became head administrator of Higashi Honganji. He also inspired the “Dobokai” movement, a campaign began in the 1960s to reinvigorate Shinshu followers.
In the poem, “My Mother,” Rev. Akegarasu expresses thoughts about his mother, which I share, and which perhaps you also feel. To me, I truly appreciate my mother’s patience, understanding and love for my siblings and me.
On this occasion of Mother’s Day, please express your thanks to your mother, and to mothers everywhere, including all who came before us. In your remembrance, please hear the teachings of the Buddha and the Nenbutsu, as shown to us by Shinran Shonin.
By Rev. Haya Akegarasu
Though I may try for the rest of my life to praise my mother’s virtues,
I haven’t enough time to express them all.
No one except my mother loved me absolutely;
no one except myself, loved my mother in the same way.
Like a blind person, my mother loved me blindly.
My mother, my dear mother.
My mother’s virtue was simply this:
to love her husband and her child
more than anything else.
Though there are billions of people and billions of mothers,
my own mother is undoubtedly the best.
One day I asked my mother,
“What would you do if I gave you a million dollars?”
She replied, “I would give it right back to you.”
After my mother passed away,
I searched and searched to find her;
and finally found her,
I found her in my own being.
Only my mother trusted me completely,
beyond judgements of good and bad.
How I long for her!
I’ve tasted delicious foods from around the world,
but for me, the only food truly delicious
are the meals my mother prepared for me.
Let my life shine!
It was nurtured with the blood and tears
of my mother as its nourishment.
Even though there are many other children
who love their mothers as much as I love mine;
there can be no other mother who loves her child
as much as my mother loves me.
-translated by Rev. Gyoko Saito