A Life Like Hers: Paying Tribute to Mama

Late Thursday afternoon, I was honored to be with Mama as she passed from this life to her eternal home. It was that difficult and deep time of witnessing someone you love take their last breaths, while you watched that mystery unfolding, knowing this was a transition you couldn’t experience with them. She was in the midst of preparing to leave and I was staying; she would cross the veil alone.

I’m left with all the attendant feelings of sadness, shock, and reflection as the memories of her years, 96 altogether and 65 with me, well up inside. I find comfort in visualizing her in the brightness of heaven, moving freely without that wheel chair that carried her for the last eight years. In my mind’s eye, she’s with Daddy  and talking, talking, talking with all her family and friends.


Mama on an Oregon Beach–moving freely as I picture her now.

Mama never feared death; her Christian faith gave her the assurance of being held by God and accompanied through life by her friend and guide, Jesus. She wasn’t one to worry as she believed if you ‘did what you were supposed to’ everything would work out.   Partly because of the temperament she was born with, and partly because of the era she grew up in, I’d say Mama was a Hopeful Realist. She was one of eight children born to a farming family and while she grew up poor during the Depression, she’d say, “We didn’t know we were poor. We had plenty of love and good food to eat.” That was at the base of her grateful heart.

One of my most vivid memories of my pragmatic mother, was the time when Mama launched into action to help one of our animals. We had ducks at our pond, and sometimes they’d waddle in their single-file up to our house, quacking under our carport, complaining that they needed more food. Mama noticed that one of the ducks had a torn wing. She gathered up supplies of a bath towel, her strongest white sewing thread, a large needle, and something to clean the area–probably rubbing alcohol.

animal beak bird duck

Photo by VisionPic .net on Pexels.com

She picked up the injured duck, wrapped it in the towel, and handed it to me to hold. I probably gave her that, “You’re gonna do what?” look and wanted to get out of helping. She insisted I hold the duck still so she could make her careful and close stitches. I watched her, amazed at her calm, no-nonsense, take charge reaction to the animal. I never doubted her sewing ability as she’d made a man’s suit, winter coats, and reupholstered the car seats. After that, I realized that Mama was one who saw a need and just took care of it.

Mama dearly loved her family. Some years ago we were on one of our Saturday trips to eat lunch at KFC with her brother, Joe and his wife, Ann. We were driving toward Lillington and Mama was totally absorbed with watching everything outside her window. We passed a billboard that had people of different ages who appeared to be in need–given their clothing and expressions. I don’t know what the billboard said, but Mama responded to it, declaring, “I’ll stand with the poor people.”


Breaking Bread at KFC

Her clear statement reminded me of the time I’d spent an afternoon cleaning out her files and organizing her financial papers. I’d dreaded that task, because she had canceled checks she’s saved as far back as the sixties. But as I worked through each piece of paper, what I found were many checks written to help others–not only organizations but individuals. There were some notes of thanks that explained how Mama’s gift had helped with a critical need. That task I’d dreaded had turned into a blessing of knowing Mama better.

When we were making funeral plans and having to designate who would receive contributions made in her honor, I remembered those checks. It seemed fitting that at this unusual time of the COVID-19 pandemic, we chose the Community Mission Fund of Mama’s church. When the pastor receives calls from folks in need of food, money to keep the lights on etc, Mama will be able to help some of those people who may be the ‘new poor’ because of these difficult financial times.

Mama was always very health and safety conscious, even before she attended the community college in her fifties and earned her Licensed Practical Nurse degreeWith the present concern over the coronavirus, some family and friends have said they won’t be able to attend her graveside service–even with all the precautions in place. If Mama knew about this pandemic, she would be the first to say to them, “That’s okay. I know you cared about me.” She was always one to appreciate the behaviors that showed real love that were done at ordinary times.

Years ago when I was driving Mama home from her UNC Gerontology appointment, I remember feeling relieved that we’d made it through the doctor’s visit. She’d gotten her reward for being ‘good at the doctor’s office’ —  lunch at the K & W.  Crossing over Jordan Lake, I was in an expansive mood and wanted to share with Mama about my writing dreams.

“Mama, I think I want to put those stories about my trips into a memoir. I’ve always wanted to publish a book.” I felt good saying it, announcing to the world my intention, sharing it with Mama–even though I knew she would forget.

She was quiet for a bit and then responded.

“Well, then, you better get to it,” she said, and looked back through the window at the boats on the water.

That’s my Mama, I thought. Just Do It.

I want to live my life like Mama. I want to have a heart for the poor, a hopeful realism that just steps forward to meet the need, and an abiding faith that keeps me from falling into worry.

Thank you, Mama for showing all of us a better way to live.

photo of white goose

Photo by Annari du Plessis on Pexels.com



26 thoughts on “A Life Like Hers: Paying Tribute to Mama

  1. Oh I remember the duck story well and loved that she cared for animals in pain as she would a human. She demonstrated through her actions that there really wasn’t much she couldn’t do. I loved her sense of adventure and believe she wanted us to do the same. Thanks for sharing these memories and know we will share more as we celebrate a life well lived. Love you and thankful we were there for her on her living and dying.


    • Hey Little Sister,
      Yes, we share her DNA and we share all that was Mama. We were lucky to have a mother who was so brave and adventuresome. I appreciate the special time we had at the end and know we will never forget those precious moments.
      Love you,


  2. What an awesome tribute to a wonderfully sweet and gracious lady!
    She was always a pleasure to be around and I know that she loved my brother as her own son! I will always cherish knowing your mom and dad! Our parents grew up during the same era and we were blessed to be raised by parents with great morales and work ethic. I too had the privilege to hold my mom hand as she transitioned from her earthly home to her heavenly one. It was one of the hardest thing I have ever experienced, but one of my most cherished! It has been almost 25 years since my mom died, but I feel and sense her presence every day in something I see , do or say! She lives in my heart and mind just as your mom will live in yours, Peggy’s and Harriett’s! She has left behind a wonder family to carry on her legacy! Love you all and may God’s peace and comfort surround you all knowing she now is whole again!


    • Hey Addie,
      Thanks so much for your kind and supportive words. I’m glad you got to know our mother over the years. Your brother has always been like a son to Mama. What a special relationship they had.
      I remember your mother, too and enjoyed talking with her about many things, including writing. I loved that she was a poet and loved to read. She was also an artist, doing her pottery figures while living a busy farm life–how amazing.
      Now, we celebrate our mothers and we carry forward all that they instilled in us.
      We are blessed.
      Love to you and your family,


    • Thanks, Julia. She was lovely and I’m glad I have so many memories to carry. Now I’m glad that I’ve written about her over the years so I can go back and read and remember.
      Best to you, Julia,


  3. I’m so sorry for your loss at this time Connie. I feel I came to know your Mom through your blog writings and it’s clear how precious she was to you. When my own Mom died – I posted this poem from Irish poet John O’Donohue – I hope it gives you some measure of comfort at this difficult time,

    On the Death of the Beloved

    Though we need to weep your loss,
    You dwell in that safe place in our hearts,
    Where no storm or might or pain can reach you.

    We look towards each other no longer
    From the old distance of our names;
    Now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath,
    As close to us as we are to ourselves.

    Though we cannot see you with outward eyes,
    We know our soul’s gaze is upon your face,
    Smiling back at us from within everything
    To which we bring our best refinement.

    Let us not look for you only in memory,
    Where we would grow lonely without you.
    You would want us to find you in presence,
    Beside us when beauty brightens,
    When kindness glows
    And music echoes eternal tones.

    When orchids brighten the earth,
    Darkest winter has turned to spring;
    May this dark grief flower with hope
    In every heart that loves you.

    May you continue to inspire us:

    To enter each day with a generous heart.
    To serve the call of courage and love
    Until we see your beautiful face again
    In that land where there is no more separation,
    Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
    And where we will never lose you again.


    • Marie,
      Thanks so much. O’Donohue’s poem is so beautiful. I especially love, “Though we cannot see you with outward eyes, We know our soul’d gaze is upon your face.” I like how he exhorts us to remember in presence not just in memory–so good. I’ll copy this poem and read it in the days ahead. Thank you, Marie.
      Blessings to you this day,


  4. This was beautiful; the love and respect you have for your dear Mama shone through in every word.

    This, especially, touched me:

    “She was always one to appreciate the behaviors that showed real love that were done at ordinary times.”

    How honored she would be to know you’ve ear-marked her “donations” to stand “with the poor people.”

    My deepest sympathy at her passing, Connie.

    ~ MJ


  5. Hi Connie, So sorry for your loss. I feel I know your mum a little after reading this, I can imagine her and I am grateful for her, her life and the legacy of love she leaves behind including you! X


    • Thanks so much, Julia,
      I appreciate your kind words of encouragement and support. You would have liked my mother and her Scotch-Irish heritage. She had deep faith and a deep love of her family and friends. I was blessed!
      Thanks for reading and responding.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Connie, I am not responding to this article in the usual manner. You are doing “Just What It Takes” and don’t forget it. The Goose Story is classic, as I have had experiences with many of my Aunts and my Mother doing things that would seem odd in these times. For what it is worth, when I see a Goose, I will be reminded that it she may have been the angel of the Geese. We need to find that time in our lives when we can see that “Poor” is the new “Rich”. With Love, John.


    • Hey Mary,
      Yes, she was a good person. She moved as she felt led by God and was always more concerned about others than herself.
      Yeah, I couldn’t believe she did that either. I could never have done that.
      Thanks so much for reading and for your support.
      Best to you,


  7. Connie, so sorry to read of the transitioning of your mother. I too have witnessed my mom and dad taking their last breath. That was a difficult time for me. That was 11 years ago for my dad and will be 5 years for my mom in July. Sending my condolences to you and your family. To your sons and my former student Ross. I send you all love and 🙏🏾🙏🏾 Prayers.
    Pam Murdock Jones.


    • Hey Pam,
      Thanks so much for your good wishes and prayers. Yes, it’s a hard thing to do to be there at the last–but it is the thing we must do. Over time I know God will replace any unsettling images with those of Mama when she was healthy and being herself.
      Love to you and your family. Wishing you the best.


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