Sunday, May 12, 2013

To All the Moms I've Known Before

Matt with The Pinz
Scrolling through my Facebook feed, my heart sank as I read, "Just remembered this Sunday is my least favorite holiday of the year..." Matt, a friend of The Pinz posted that. His mom was killed when he was just a toddler. 

A week prior I read a post from Karen, a former student, "11 more days an I am not ready. Can we bypass that day? Its only a wish." Her mom died last year. Two childhood friends, both Pams, have put up pictures of their moms this week. Both girls have been left to raise families without the comfort and support of their mothers. Another friend, Milva, is again missing her sweet mama.

While many people are celebrating with gifts and meals and quality time, Mother's Day brings sadness to countless others. I used to be one of the latter. But then I recalled the advice of one of the many moms I've had the pleasure of knowing. Alta Bruce tells her girls, "When you're feeling down, do something for someone else." So I decided to send cards that year to my friends who had lost children during their lifetime or to those who were facing their first Mother's Day without their own moms. I've done this for several years now, and I always feel guilty when they thank me. Because I do it partially to help myself.

This year I decided that I would write something for all of them together. Partially to help myself. 

Nona

It would be so easy to have a pity party for having no parents and no grandparents. But negativity isn't something I cling to very often. When I was about ten, my Nona insisted I read Pollyanna. She fully subscribed to the find something to be happy about mentality. She trained me to think that way. Sometimes it's really annoying. You want to just be mad or sad, but those happy thoughts come creeping in. You start counting your blessings. And there it is. Your mood is lifted. So as this Mother's Day was approaching, my sadness was overcome by a feeling of being blessed to have known and been influenced by so many wonderful mothers.

In a birthday card to my son this week, my uncle proclaimed, "We aren't just the age we are presently, but all the ages we have been before." So true. It's why I love Facebook. While I'll admit, there are people on there whom I have no idea how I know them, most are near and dear to my heart and have contributed in some way to who I am or what my life story is.

My own mom was brave. She had polio as a child. She had me as a teenager. She taught me much
Me with My Parents in 1968
about life. It just took me awhile to understand it all. But hers is a story for another blog. With a crazy daddy who appeared and disappeared irregularly, I often  longed for a "normal" home; however, my Pollyanna attitude has always reminded me to be forever grateful for the two godly women who helped raise me. My grandmothers were amazing women. They poured love into me. Theirs are also stories for another time.


Of course I had other family members to stand in the gap as well - a special aunt who somehow managed to remember me in the midst of raising her three in a somewhat dysfunctional situation;  a happy-go-lucky sister; lots of fun cousins; and a few great-aunts who had no children of their own and thereby did extra special things for me. But it's not them I am writing about today. It's the moms who aren't family members who have enhanced my life. For them I am thankful this Mother's Day.

One of those moms is the latest loss. Her girls are facing their first motherless Mother's Day. I met this family as soon as I moved from Atlanta to Blackshear. They had no idea of the chaos that had ensued in the years prior to my move. They didn't know they were the first "real" family I had seen in action, other than the Cleavers and the Bradys on television  But they modeled for me the values I would later seek for my own life - family, faith, fun. And hard work. Theirs was a loving home. The girls had beautifully decorated rooms with plenty of clothes and toys, but they were expected to work. In tobacco fields. In the kitchen. I can still picture them scurrying onto counter tops to put dishes away in cabinets they couldn't yet reach. Much to my dismay, they even cut their Nanny's toe nails. And their mother was lovely. The epitome of a southern lady. She could light up a room. And she made everything into a funny story. Even the bad things her girls might or might not have done through the years. She knew how to punish them, but she also knew how not to take life too seriously. Paige and Mit, I'm blessed to have been a part of the Henderson family during those precious years of country living. I hope you are counting your many blessings this Mother's Day.

Another heart-wrenching Facebook post this week was a family portrait. Four beautiful, wonderful adult siblings and their families. Heart-wrenching because two of the siblings are no longer with us. The mother who posted it is one of the moms I'm blessed to have known. I laugh just thinking of the crazy fun she allowed us to have (well for the part she was aware of anyway). They had a big house full of children, theirs and anybody else's who wanted to be there, along with an enormous dog. No space was off limits. We made green muffins from scratch and had sleepovers in the laundry room, the back deck, the brothers' bath tub. We snuck out at night and went skinny dipping in the lake. When the lake was drained, we covered ourselves from head to toe in mud. We jumped out the window, rang the front door bell, and jumped back in. And if it wasn't enough to have the run of the house, they also let us get free bottle drinks from the Coke slider machine at their pharmacy. My favorite thing though was mealtime. Eating with that many people was interesting to say the least. And I was always amazed at how this family managed to get up on Sunday mornings, get ready for church, AND have bacon, sausage, and pancakes for breakfast - without killing each other. Ms. Janice, I am blessed to have been a part of the wonderful Smith family for so many years. I am glad to see that you are still able to count your blessings.

There are many, many others.

Jackie Houston who also allowed us to play all over the house, have grand parties in the play room, make big messes in the kitchen, and turn the music up loudly. Jami, I'm forever thankful for the memories.

Latrell Baggs who cooked for us and always managed to remain so calm and kind. Angela and Melanie, you two come as a package along with an entire clan of people who I am blessed to have known and learned about love, humor, and appreciation of individualism.

Joyce Dixon Fowler, who is still in my life, is a testament to the inner strength of a woman. After losing her husband in a military accident while living in another country, she pulled herself together and raised three girls by herself. They didn't always make it easy. But she has an endless amount of grace and love and mercy. And she gives it with all the class of a true southern lady.

Together we have all shared happy times. And yet we also share loss. We share pain.

My thoughts and prayers are with so many. Along with Paige and Misty, two other sets of sisters are experiencing their first Mother's Day without their moms. Verna Lynn and Carmen lost their mom almost a year ago. She fitted me for my wedding gown. Beth and Carol suffered their loss in the fall. A farmer's wife. The very essence of traditional American wholesome values.

But as difficult as it is to lose your mother, there are far too many who have lost a part of themselves when a child was taken so soon.

Em (sitting) and me (standing)
Mary Lane lost my cousin Emily Ann when I was about five years old. There have been many moments in my life that gripped Mary Lane's heart. I could recognize the pain in her eyes, even though I was often too young to understand it. Yet she kept smiling. She, too, was trained by that Pollyanna loving lady. She smiled at my Easter dresses at church. Even offered to take me shopping sometime. She smiled, through tears, when I walked the church isle in cap and gown and then again in a wedding dress. Her strength is a part of me. It's a part of her daughter-in-law, Melinda, too. Losing their Ann Marie a few years ago was seemingly unbearable. Yet no other life celebration has touched me the way hers did. Faith was the message. Maybe not from the preacher. I don't remember. But from the family. I'm blessed to call you all family.

My friend and former colleague, Jane, lost her Winston as he was just making the transition from boy to man. Jane's relaxed manner and funny stories about raising her three helped me to see the light at the end of the tunnel. She had the hindsight that I wasn't privy to yet. Cathy Landers also lost a young man, Adam. Theirs is a quiet strength.

Fratina Is a New Mom
Several friends experienced loss at the time when life was supposed to be the gift they were receiving. Amy, Teresa, Fratina have suffered something so delicate and raw. But God certainly sent other blessings to them. Fratina posted news of the finalization of her two adoptions this week! Mother's Day will have new meaning.

My cousin Melanie lost Denton, one of her twins, before ever being able to bring him home from the
hospital. She didn't allow her heart to be closed, however. Sister Blaine now has two beautiful siblings all the way from Russia.


My friend Michelle lost her precious MJ after watching him suffer as disease took over his little body. Michelle reminds me of the verse that says rejoicing comes in the morning. She starts every day with Him, and therefore, finds strength to bless others.

So many other friends are in my constant prayers.

Gina and Renee and I lined our babies on the sofa in their onesies. We teased Gina about using
Kaley, Wyatt, and Breanna
jelly on the pacifier. We never imagined Kaley's life here would be cut short. Gina's mother, Ms. Vera Sue, helped her through this unimaginable time, and then later lost Gina's brother Joey. This is another family that impacted my life, and so many others, by the fun times in their loving home. The Pophams are everybody's family.


My friends and former colleagues, Kim and Teresa, are still trying to figure out life without their handsome boys, Holt and Layne. While Pam, Kathy P, Jill, Aunt Shirley, Kathy C, Ms. Virgina have all had more time to heal, their hearts are no more mended. All share a strong faith that gives strength to those who miss their children, Rob, Beth Ann, Kelly, Jerry, Tag, and Austin.


Grandma Brenda (on the ground), my Walt & Alex Jr. (sitting)

My sister-in-law lost her teenage son, Alex Jr., who was born a month after his father was tragically killed along with her brother, Walt. My mother-in-law is overcome with this heartache. The other grandmother, Brenda, who also lost both son and grandson had already suffered the loss of her first born, Ardie, years earlier. It's almost too much to fathom. Brenda is one of my personal heroes. Her heart has remained open and she has continually given of herself and managed to find joy and laughter even after much tragedy.

Mary, Meghan, and Kelly
Another hero is Lynn. Lynn who comforted me at the funeral home. She and Robbie who are a walking testimony to what we can overcome. They lost both of their precious girls, her father, and a special friend all in one moment. Our little community thought we could handle anything together. But we fell apart. Robbie sent comfort to us through the preacher with a Word that would pull us back together. Collectively, we ensured the lives and grand memories of Meghan, Mary, Mr. Eldon, and Kelly were celebrated as the Gaskins ministered to us through their words and actions in the days that followed. Their faith held us together.

And because of that and the strength I find from all of these moms, I am blessed this Mother's Day. My heart still aches for my mother. But it aches profoundly more for these mothers who are missing parts of themselves. And yet they find something to be happy about.

As Robbie Gaskins reminded us, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

Counting My Blessings

















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