Skip to content

Mother and friend, the most sacred of titles.

I have often recalled that probably the one thing in my life that I miss is not being a dad. I have lost count of the number of times I have seen a past student with their young daughter or son come running to them and jump into their arms. Each time there is a little tug deep inside of me. But life is a series of choices and at the time you make the best choice you can, knowing what you know and believing what you believe. Then each day, you get up and as faithfully as you can – you live your choices!

When I taught at Gregory Terrace I used to write a weekly column in the school newsletter. Many of those columns were made into a book, ‘The Worth of the Ordinary’. There are a small number of those books still available via my website, ‘Encounter the Heart’. But through these columns my mother Zena gained something of a ‘cult’ status, cult following. I remember one week writing about the time Zena lost one of her hearing aides – stolen by our Fox Terrier – ‘Basil’. Well – some weeks later while gardening (with her new hearing aides in) Zena heard a buzzing noise coming from the garden and upon investigation found where Basil had buried said stolen property. That weekend at the Rugby I had about twelve students and parents inquire as to how Basil was!

I had the most extraordinary mother. When I told Zena I was thinking of becoming a Christian Brother she immediately burst into laughter! Why? Because she doubted whether I had a good enough sense of humour to live community life! How cruel! Another time, Anthony Ryan and I were conducting the first ever Kairos Retreat on the East Coast of Australia. As part of the retreat we got each of the members of the team five or six letters of affirmation from loved ones. Of course, Anthony promised me that he would not get any for me and I promised Anthony that I would not get any for him – so our focus would be on the team. Of course, Anthony secretly went ahead and got letters for me and of course, I secretly went ahead and got letters for him. One of mine was from Zena. Zena (knowingly or unknowingly) totally misread Anthony’s instructions and wrote this long missive paying out on her youngest son: all his foibles, all his childhood embarrassing moments, all his clumsy attempts at relationships with girls and more. It was the kind of thing a nasty parent does as part of a ‘roast’ at a 21st birthday.

When I complained to Zena saying, “Mum, mothers are supposed to be nice!” With a twinkle in the eye she immediately responded, “Oh dear, I must have been away the day they taught that class!”

But I did have the most extraordinary mother. As you all know I joined the Brothers, left the Brothers, joined the Brothers, left the Brothers – so much so that even to this day many who know me are still not sure if I am a Brother or not. The first time I left, I was really unset and fragile. So I phoned my eldest brother Simon and asked him to be there, hovering around, when my letter sharing my decision with mum arrived. I should not have worried. When I arrived home as Mr Price some weeks later, Zena just gave me one of her rare hugs and simply said, “Damien, I love you and always will. All I want is your happiness!”

But, as I have shared before, my most precious memory of Zena was that night when my wonderful but fragile father had taken ill with a nervous breakdown and bad nose bleed. The lights in the house all came on and the ambulance bearers were taking dad away on a stretcher. Little eight year old Damien will never forget the sight of Zena shuffling along beside the stretcher holding dad’s hand.

I began this blog by saying that I miss not being a dad. Well, one of the things I have discovered on my life’s journey is that there is a natural pull, a natural ‘mother bear’, ‘father bear’ protective automatic response from mothers and fathers when their child is threatened, ill, confused or lost. On mother’s day and on father’s day we honour and are grateful for extraordinary human beings who have walked marathons holding a crying toddler attempting to get them back to sleep. We honour mothers and fathers who believe in their children even when those very children do not believe in themselves. We honour mothers and fathers who go without, so the ones they love can have something. We honour mothers and fathers who, even though bone weary themselves, have waited up for a returning child, sat in hospital waiting rooms or watched the 5000 th sporting event or training session.

So on Mother’s day we honour. We say “thank you”! We appreciate and we know that we are who we are at our best – because of their sacrifice and giving. We appreciate and we know that who we are is because of their unconditional love, belief and support.

In one way, every day should be Mother’s day, every day should be Father’s day – for this appreciation and this honouring should not be for just one day in the year.

As we honour and appreciate let’s not forget Ukrainian mothers and grandmothers who have lost so much and live in fear, Russian mothers and grandmothers whose son has not returned from an evil, ego driven man’s war, Palestinian mothers and grandmothers whose children daily see death and destruction and Jewish mothers and grandmothers who mourn and grieve a child or sister taken hostage or killed. Let’s not forget any mother, any where on planet Earth who lives in fear, who is sleepless out of concern for their children, who goes to bed hungry or bone weary, who suffers physically or emotionally because they get up every day and do “what needs to be done for the children!”

Zena made the mistake when I was about eight of telling me that she liked ‘Californian Poppy’ perfume. So every year during my childhood I would assiduously go down to the store with my saved up pennies and every year buy Zena a bottle of said perfume for mothers’ day or Christmas. Imagine how I felt when as as fifteen year old teenager I was going through the draws in mum’s cupboard looking our family coin collection – only to discover some seven unopened bottles of Californian Poppy! Zena had never said a word, just smiled and said, “Oh thank you Damien!”

Happy mother’s day!

1 thought on “Mother and friend, the most sacred of titles.”

  1. Dearest Damien,
    Your stories fill me with so much love! Thank you for sharing your gifts with us all. This is my second Mother’s Day without my dearest mum, the one who was my protector, my champion, my nemesis (when I really needed it), and my dearest friend. Every day I am grateful for the blessing that her life was for me, and I aim to share her tenacity and her tenderness with all those hearts, young and old, I encounter in my walk through life. Today I send you love as one of those parent figures in my life who lead by examples of kindness, humour and patience. xxxx

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *