It was a year ago this weekend that we said our farewell to Mama at her graveside service at Shallow Well United Church of Christ. It was a sunny, cool Saturday before Mother’s Day and I was touched by the great number who stood in masks around the cemetery. Family, friends, fellow church and community members came to celebrate Mary Smith Rosser and all she meant over her ninety-six years. I never doubted that hers was a life well-lived but seeing those witnesses at her final celebration reinforced what I knew to be true of my mother.
We lost Mama slowly, over time, the way dementia takes away the person you knew— one grief after another, while you hold on to what you still have. As hard as it was to see the changes in our capable mother, her joyful and loving spirit persevered and became another life-lesson that she taught until the day she died. At Parkview, where Mama lived her last 8 years, she was called “Miss Sunshine” by the staff.
Today, as we remember and honor our mothers, I have so many things I’m thankful for from all the years I had Mama. Some of you have lost your mothers through death over this past year. The first Mother’s Day is hard when your grief is so fresh, so tender. For others, your mother is still living but you’ve not been able to see her because of the pandemic. You have yearned to hug her the way you used to–without thinking you’d go so long without those familiar arms locking you in their maternal embrace. No doubt you’ve been aware, more than ever, of all the things your mother has meant to you in that time of absence.
Over the years of watching Mama, and then becoming a mother myself, I’ve thought a lot about the unique gifts our mothers have not only given to their children– but to their childrens’ friends.
I asked several of my friends what they missed most since their mothers had died. I wanted their help in writing this post, but also wanted to know their mothers better. When we’re growing up, we don’t give a lot of consideration to our friends’ mothers as women–but later, we can appreciate all that they were.
I’ve known my friend, Pam since 9th grade. She was the one who saved me from Algebra! I first went to her home when she was tutoring me for the final exam. We sat outside in lawn chairs and she coached me through. Her mother was always so welcoming when I visited. Years later, when my father died suddenly, I was reeling from shock and sadness. Needing a place to escape all the folks coming to my house with funeral casseroles and flowers, I called Pam to see if I could come over. I remember her mother’s sweet welcoming of me into her home, that for me was a safe haven where I didn’t have to say anything.
Over the past weeks of my posts, I haven’t included Reflective Questions. This week I’ll pose them as we go along:
Did your mother provide a safe, welcoming haven for your friends or others?
Pam’s mother died at a young 61 years old. This week, I asked Pam about her favorite memories of her mother. She remembered that her mother was generous with everyone. Pam wrote, “One memory stands out. An older black gentleman was mowing a rocky rental yard next door. It was mid-summer and very hot and the dust was flying. My Mom took him some homemade lemonade and vanilla wafers with peanut butter. The look of surprise and delight on his face I will never forget.” Mothers like Pam’s show us love in action.
My friend Donna and I have known each other since first grade. I saw Donna’s mother more than most because in high school she worked in the front office. Even when Donna was a teenager, you could see that she greatly favored her mother. Donna had a ‘young mother’– who was ten years younger than mine and they had a ‘best friends’ type of relationship. Donna listed many things she missed about her mother, but said, “The thing I miss most was her ability to take two cliches that have similar meanings and in a split second mix the two so that they had no meaning at all. For example ‘stretch of the means’ instead of ‘not by any means’ and ‘not by any stretch.'” Donna finds comfort in remembering those humorous times when her mother came up with her mixed cliches.
What funny mannerisms, idiosyncrasies, personal way of expression did your mother exhibit?
As it turned out, Pam, Donna and I went to the same college and even shared a dorm room freshman year. The girls across the hall from us, Kay and Debbie, became our friends and we’re still friends today. I asked Kay about memories of her mother. Debbie’s mother is still living and at 98, has dementia. Debbie is in the midst of caregiving and losing her mother a little at the time.
Kay is retired from teaching elementary students in a rural county in eastern North Carolina, with many families at a lower income level. When she thought about her memories of her mother, she said, “Looking at past photos, I realize the love my mother had for me. I wore good clothes and was always well-fed. I didn’t look thrown away as some children I’ve seen.” Kay goes on to say, “And for that I’ve given God praise and thanks. I am and have been blessed and highly favored, even in my Mama’s womb.”
What do you see in photos that show your Mother’s care for you? In what ways has your Mother shown you God’s blessings?
I hope that on this Mother’s Day, you’re able to savor the good things your mother has given you, appreciate her idiosyncrasies, and remember the safe haven she provided for you and others. Perhaps for some of you, your memories of your mother are not so positive, but have left you with pain or regret. May you work through those feelings that burden you and find peace. As I’ve told my two sons, “I loved you more than anything and did the best I could as your mother. I’m sorry for what I didn’t do so well.”
Grace and Peace to You All on this Mother’s Day.