The Sweetest Gift

By Regena Handy

A song that I sometimes hum to myself has been on my mind during this season of observing Mother’s Day. Written by James B. Coats, my favorite version is by the fabulous harmonizing trio made up of Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Ronstadt.

The title of the song is “The Sweetest Gift.” Since the lyrics tell a sad story, that of a mother who visits her son in prison, one might raise the question of its appropriateness at this time.  But the song is about a mother’s love as outlined in the words — that she goes “to see her erring but precious son, she told the warden how much she loved him, it did not matter what he had done.” Then it continues that the mother did not bring him silver or gold but “the sweetest gift, a mother’s smile.”

So many of us can relate to those words. Oh, perhaps (and hopefully) not, the prison part, but the significance of our mother’s smiles to us.

Over the years I’ve heard different versions of the most important things a mother can do for her child.  I maintain that being a happy mother is one of the greatest gifts we can ever provide and its influence indescribable. The old adage that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world is absolutely still true.

At the funeral service for one of my brothers’, the minister shared conversations that they had in the weeks before his passing. The minister said that my brother often referred to our mom as “the sweetest mother.”

While speaking of observing this special day, I’d like to share a couple of stories where those of us who are mothers are on the receiving end. When our boys were young, they would come home from school with painted bottles (to be used as vases), items made from hardened clay and painted splashy bright colors, special drawings and pictures (yes, I still have these items). All gifts for Mother’s Day.

I was reminded of those days last Friday when our grandson came home from school. We happened to be visiting family, with dinner plans for later, when he came bouncing in the door. He ran to his bedroom, backpack thumping against him, calling “Mommy, I have something for you.” Our daughter-in-law, knowledgeable of his intent, asked whether he wanted to wait until Sunday. No, he didn’t, and dashed back into the room to give her a handmade card complete with a drawing of flowers and little boy scrawls.

In terms of tangible gifts, our youngest son provided one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments nearly twenty years ago. For decades Ferrum College held its graduation ceremonies on the Sunday morning of Mother’s Day. What a treat and joy and tremendous gift to watch our son walk with other graduates down through the campus yard to be rewarded for all their efforts and accomplishments. No better Mother’s Day gift is imaginable.

The sweetest gifts: a mother’s smile and the blessed opportunity to love and be loved.