Motherhood naturally develops in a woman a nurturing instinct that continues even after her baby has been born and the umbilical cord that binds mother and child together has been cut. This nurturing instinct is perhaps what enables her to love her child unconditionally.
In real-life as well as in fiction, we know of mothers who go to great lengths to protect and provide for their children. For a mother, there is no sacrifice too great for her to do to ensure the wellbeing of her family. She would gladly give her life if it would save her children from harm.
The kind of love only a mother is capable of giving continually awes sons and daughters throughout generations. It inspires them to admire, love, respect, and honor the gentle soul they call Mother. And so tributes for mothers abound—songs that thug at the heart, words that underscore the pureness of a mother’s love, and artworks that celebrate motherhood.
Remarkable Mothers in Fiction
A mirror of reality, literature is filled with remarkable mothers and can thus provide a good glimpse of the greatness of a mother’s love. One fictional mother that readily comes to mind is Fantine in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Described as having “gold and pearls for her dowry; but the gold was on her head and the pearls in her mouth,” Fantine bore a child out of wedlock. This child—Cosette—became her sole reason for living. For her child, there’s nothing Fantine wouldn’t do. She overworked herself, cut and sold her hair, had her two front teeth removed and sold, and even went into prostitution to send money to Cosette’s guardians. She died not ever laying eyes on her child again, and not knowing that the money demanded of her never went to Cosette.
Another remarkable mother is Molly Weasley in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. A no-nonsense mother who was completely devoted to her family, Mrs. Weasley had so much love in her heart, it extended to her children’s friends, Hermione Granger and Harry Potter. Though at times overly protective, she was the kind of mother anyone would love to go home to—nurturing, affectionate, loving, hard-working, and warm.
There is also Ellen O’ Hara in Margarett Mitchell’s novel Gone with the Wind. Although her appearance in the novel is brief, Ellen, the epitome of a great Southern (Atlanta) mother, had a deep impact on her headstrong daughter, Scarlett. In a scene with Rhett Butler, Scarlett spoke of how she admired her mother: “She was so kind to everybody, so good… I so wanted to be like her in every way and I am not like her one bit.”
Visual Artists’ Tribute to Mothers
Since time immemorial, great visual arts masters have drawn inspiration from Madonna and the child Jesus. Numerous works about the Virgin and the infant Jesus abound. But as much as the masters drew inspiration from the Holy Mother, they also had been deeply touched by the pureness of (human) mothers’ love.
The world’s greatest painters, from Leonardo Da Vinci to Vincent Van Gogh to Raphael Sanzio to Peter Paul Rubens, to name a few, had tried to capture in their artworks the bond shared by mother and child. So did local masters like Vicente Manansala and Fernando Amorsolo, among others. Newly established and rising visual artists of our generation likewise have their own rendition of the mother-and-child theme. And so everywhere, we see paintings and sculptures depicting a mother cradling her child, singing to him, soothing him, simply watching over him, or playing with him.
Songs and Verses for and about Mothers
Many songs and poems for and about mothers have also been written and sang throughout the generations. “Mother O’ Mine,” the poet Rudyard Kipling’s tribute to his mother, talked of how great a mother’s love is. He wrote, “If I were hanged on the highest hill / Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine / I know whose love would follow me still.”
The great poet, Edgar Allan Poe found her mother-in-law’s love even more devotional than that of the angels in heaven. A stanza of his poem “To My Mother” goes: “In the Heavens above, / The angels, whispering to one another / Can find, among their burning terms of love /
None so devotional as that of ‘Mother.’”
In her 1881 poem, “Sonnets are Full of Love,” the English poet, Cristina Rosetti, called her mother her “first love.” She wrote: “To my first Love, my Mother, on whose knee /
I learnt love-lore that is not troublesome / Whose service is my special dignity / And she my loadstar while I go and come.”
In 1968, John Lennon penned the Beatles song “Julia” for his mother, Julia, who was run over by a car. In the song, John sings to her dead mother: “Half of what I say is meaningless / But I say it just to reach you, Julia.”
In the 1990s, the Spice Girls paid tribute to their mothers through their hit song “Mama.” In this song, the once-phenomenal girl band elucidated how young children tend to misunderstand their mothers. They sang, “Back then I didn’t know why / Why you were misunderstood / So now I see through your eyes / All that you did was love.”
At about the same period, Boyz II Men, a rhythm and blues American quartet, released their single “A Song for Mama.” They sang to their mothers: “Mama, mama you’re the queen of my heart / Your love is like tears from the stars.”
A sentimental lot, Filipinos have lots of poignant songs for mothers. Among the most popular is Sa Ugoy ng Duyan by Levi Celerio (lyrics) and Lucio San Pedro (melody), which reminisces a mother’s soothing love. A part of the song goes,“Sa aking pagtulog na labis ang himbing / Ang bantay ko’y tala, ang tanod ko’y bituin / Sa piling ni nanay, langit ay buhay / Puso kong may dusa, sabik sa ugoy ng duyan. (While I sleep peacefully/ The stars watch over me / In mother’s arm, life is heaven / My aching heart longs for a lullaby).
A well-loved Ilocano song by Bobby Gutierrez (also sang by then child singer, Sheryll Ignacio and later by Vhen Bautista) speaks of one’s great loss when one’s mother dies: “Nagrigat ketdin ti awan inana; kaarigna’t pataw nga awan sangladanna. (Life without Mother is difficult; it is like a ship without a port.”
Famous People, Real-life Mothers
Indeed, the mother’s influence on her children is much greater than she can ever imagine. People who have a way with words have expressed in varied ways their love, their fondness, their awe of the one woman who nurtured and inspired them all their lives. The French novelist and playwright Honore de Balzac verbalized his amazement at how easy mothers can forgive. He wrote, “The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.”
Even our great leaders attribute their success to a woman in their life, often, their mother. George Washington, the first president of the United States has this to say about his mother, Mary Ball Washington: “All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.”
Our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, wrote of his mother, Teodora Alonzo: “Ah! Without her, what would have become of my education and what would have been my fate? Oh, yes! After God, the mother is everything.”
Indeed, there is none as great as a mother’s love.
//Sherma E. Benosa; Published in the 10 May 2010 issue of The Manila Times