Faith vs Fear

Faith vs Fear

Monday, May 9, 2011

Reconnecting with My Mother

Mothers Day is always a bittersweet day for me, with tender memories of my mother coming to the surface. This year my sister's comment about our mom's hamburger patties that resembled "hockey pucks" brought back happy memories of long-forgotten family dinners and made me laugh. For some reason, none of her daughters can cook decent hamburger patties, either. We think it's genetic.

My mother died unexpectedly of a stroke when she was 53 years old and just starting to experience an empty nest. I was 21, engaged to be married, and figuring out my life away from her. Although deeply saddened by the loss, I didn’t take much time to mourn, and went on with my activities, including marriage a few months later. I became a mother myself within a year of her passing.

My daughter was born on the third anniversary of her death, and oh, how I wanted my mother then! I slipped into post-partum depression, complicated by unresolved grief and other factors. I eventually recovered from the depression but was not able to talk much about her for another 15 years.

The years flew by filled with life’s unexpected twists and turns and the joys and sorrows of raising children. Often, when perplexed by my children’s behavior, I pondered the question, “What would Mom do or say?” I tried to follow her example in raising my children and missed not having her here to enjoy her grandchildren. She would be so proud of them!

Then I found some long-forgotten letters that she wrote to me when I was in college. When I held the creased letters with fading ink, written in my mother’s familiar, difficult-to-decipher writing, I felt warmed by memories of a home long gone. I pictured her sitting at a table, writing letters on whatever paper was available. I could even hear her voice in my mind. I read them through and enjoyed remembering the carefree, exciting time when I first left home.

I am now a few years older than she was when she wrote them, but I face some of the same challenges. Even though I want my children to progress, sometimes it's difficult seeing them move in different directions. She also had trouble dealing with an emptying nest: “We missed you on Thanksgiving. It’s the first Thanksgiving you have not been home. It’s hard to see the family pulling apart; not being able to spend holidays together. I hope you won’t get too homesick.”

There’s something about the motherhood role that makes us want to give advice to our children, and she was no exception. I appreciate now her gentle reminders, and her wish to have me at home with her:
“Please take care of yourself and don’t get run down. Get plenty of rest.”
“Be sure to budget the money you earn so that you will have enough to pay your bills at the end of the month. It is so easy to spend as you make it.”
“When will you be coming home? I did 14 pints of peaches for you, and froze 20 pints for us. Otherwise, life is dull, but we keep busy.”

All through the letters are expressions of love and confidence: “We are all looking forward to your summer at home as we love you and miss you very much. I’m so glad you enjoy your school and have learned so much about being independent, and taking care of yourself. We are proud of you.”

She frequently asked about the well-being of my roommates and friends, and her spirit shines through in this warm welcome to a friend:
“It was so good to talk with you again. We get lonely, but that is okay; then we appreciate everyone more. Your friend is welcome for Thanksgiving. We’ll borrow some cots from the neighbors so no one need sleep on the floor.”

Some of my favorite letters are descriptions of what she saw around her: “February 2. We have had two weeks of beautiful sunshine. Every weekend we have noisy snowmobiles running up and down the lake in front of our house. So we have driven to Riggins (on the Salmon River) for the last two Saturdays. Mild and warm down there; buttercups out all over the place.”

She also liked following current events, and one of the last letters she wrote was on Election Day 1976, just two months before she died: “Did you vote today? By the time you get this all the hullabaloo will be over, and we will settle down into what? Who knows?”

Finding these letters was better than finding treasure. I miss my mother and probably always will, but now I feel reconnected to her. I am healed.


  1. Sally,
    That was truly wonderful!! What a beautiful tribute to your mom! I am SO very thankful that you have found healing and again, feel connected to her!
    Blessings always,


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