Mothers who weren't mine

(Edited May 2018)

In the summer of 1999, my fiancé and I traveled to my hometown. It sounded like a romantic idea - visit the place where my life began and share with him pieces of my childhood.  But, looking back, that trip became so much more than nostalgia.

We drove through my old neighborhood and slowed in front of the only house I knew for 21 years. We cruised my high school parking lot, went for ice cream at one of my favorite shops then meandered through one of Greensboro's many historic battlegrounds. For several days, we let the sunroof show us the stars and street lights of a not-so-big downtown. It was fun and maybe just a little romantic. There are two moments of that trip that stick out more than any of the others. The first, seeing my guy so interested in my roots, and the second, visiting the memorial gardens.

All the romance just fell away in your mind, right?


Danny had heard a thousand stories from my family about how much I was like my Grandmother. One of the places he wanted to visit was her final resting place. He admitted that it was foolish, but added rather shyly that he wanted to talk with her. Hand in hand, we climbed the small hill and followed the pathway to the columbarium. It was darker and cooler than I remembered but we found my grandparent's nameplates almost immediately that it was as if I had just been there. I settled myself on the bench inside the small, musty room and watched as my future husband touched her name. He began whispering, barely a sound from his lips. He made promises to take care of her granddaughter, her namesake. It moved me but the longer I observed him, the more intimate the conversation and it seemed almost intrusive for me to be there. I decided to slip away into the adjoining gardens and I allowed the path to lead me to another special place I wanted to visit.

A newer columbarium was built down the hill.  I followed the walkway lined with dogwoods and azalea bushes. I took a deep breath, whispered my own words of encouragement then opened the doors in a beautiful marble entrance. I went to the room where I knew she was. I found her name on the wall and as soon as I saw it, my chest filled with all the pains of pent-up emotion.  I crumbled onto the bench in the center of the room. There was no one there so my tears and visible grief were uninhibited. After a few minutes of hard crying, I wiped my eyes and nose on the edge of my sleeve. Even alone, this embarrassed me and I couldn't help but laugh. Wiping tears on my sleeve in front of this woman I was grieving who had so much class and dignity.  Her grace was like no other and she was a gorgeous combination of Jackie O's style and Lucille Ball's captivating eyes.  Her brilliant smile joined her eyes connected with marble chisled rose cherry cheeks. 

She was my best friend's mother but she was like my mom too. She helped raised me since I was at her house a great deal of my middle and high school years. She cared for me and she loved me. We lost her beautiful spirit when we were only in our twenties. The pain was dreadful for me, but I couldn't imagine what her daughter was experiencing. Why take her mom? She was kind, generous and compassionate. She loved children, those who were her own and her children's friends.

Danny found me as I was drying my eyes with an unused section of my sleeve. He moved in beside me on the bench, offered a handkerchief that I could've used 15 minutes before and held my hand. He let a few moments pass then said, "Tell me about her." And I did. For over an hour. 

History repeats itself

Many, many years later, I had bosses who were a husband and wife team of a local school uniform store. They had two young, grown children - a son and a daughter - the same as my childhood friend. Unexpectedly and without reason, their mother died. Here again, I was faced with a death so sudden and untimely that mirrored the pain of so many years ago - watching two children - in their twenties deal with the white-hot pain of loss. Everything around them felt lonely and left a huge void in their life without their mom. I loved these two remarkable women. They left behind children and even though they were considered adults, they were still new to life on their own. It never made sense why some mothers are taken away when others seem as if they do not cherish their role at all.

So this Mother's Day and every other Mother's Day after this one means so much to me because I treasure the gift of mothers even more. Mother's Day tangles up a web of unresolved issues and stirs a myriad of emotions, but there are three things that are the clearest to me the older I get.

I am grateful for my mother.

I am grateful that I am a mother of a boy and a girl.

I am so grateful for the mothers who did a damn fine job raising their children especially those who were only given twenty years to do it. And there was no reward of watching their children's families grow. God bless every one of you who do the best you can with your children every day that you're given. Thank you for loving your children and also the ones who claim you as a mother figure in their life. 

Happy Mother's Day.

Seeds to Share: 
Proverbs 31:28 - Her children arise and call her blessed.