Thursday, July 13, 2017

Pondering: My Mother's Life

My mother died on Sunday. If you know anything about my journey with her, you know it has  been rocky for most of my life. She lived from a deeply wounded place. I know she loved Jesus, but she never knew how to take his grace into her heart and allow it to bring healing or change.  I know she loved me, and I loved her, too.

After a long period of estrangement, she had a stroke, and she needed me. Somehow we found common ground over books. I read aloud to her every week for close to ten years. We read every Mrs. Polifax novel ever written, along with many more. In the last year, she was unable to keep her attention on a book for more than a minute or two, so we had short visits filled with Facebook pictures of her great-grandchildren or just sitting. There is sadness, sometimes for what could have been and wasn't, but there is also peace in knowing she understands now all that she could not understand here.

I wrote this several years ago as I was making my way toward peace with her.

Mother's Lessons

She taught me gin rummy and badminton,
to make Chef Boyardee Pizza
with a crust ten-cent thin.
She taught me to make my bed
before I was out of it, to clean my room,
to fry chicken in a pan of Crisco,
to practice piano, to listen.
She taught me that homework came before play,
that a "B" was never your best,
that a hairbrush was not meant to collect hair.
She taught me justice, but without
mercy that makes it redemptive.
She taught me to be truthful, but
she meant her version, and it was seldom
spoken in love. She taught me
that getting your own way hurts
the ones close to you. She taught me
silence is not golden when it shuts people out.
She taught me that touch is tender, not tenuous.
She taught me family comes first.
She taught me to give, but gifts
with strings make one feel bought.
She taught me that kindness is
more important than the appearance of kindness.
She taught me when bitterness takes root,
you can lose your best friend.
She taught me God’s love--
without it I might not have survived hers.
She taught me to be a mother.
Sometimes knowing
what not to do is the best lesson.
Today I sat beside her bed and read.
I held her withered hand in mine
and kissed her wrinkled brow, because
I know what it means to need those things.
She taught me that.

© Doraine Bennett 2012

There is a strange feeling of having no more connection to my past, other than memories. A sense that the continuum from past to future has altered and there is only what lies ahead--my children, my grandchildren. A dear friend said, "It is the passing of a generation and this is worth noting and mourning." Indeed.

My nephew sang this song at the service.

And one verse shared by the pastor:

"Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope." 1 Thessalonians 4:13 (NIV)

I am profoundly grateful that death is not the end. 


  1. So beautiful. Thank you for sharing. My thoughts are with you.

  2. Oh, IS so beautiful a tribute. I think I need to use this as a mentor text. I'll bet you worked out a lot of emotions in writing this. Thank you for sharing this part of your journey here. It is beautiful even if also challenging. I will be thinking of you as you lay your mother to rest. Be gentle with yourself.

    1. Thanks, Linda. I used a mentor text, "What I Learned from My Mother" by Julia Kasdorf. So go find that one before you start.

  3. Dori,
    Poweful. Honest. Important. I am sorry for your loss, and grateful for your words. My mother died May 24. She was 91. I need to write more about my lessons learned. Sending a virtual hug. Perhaps a reminder, but I doubt it.... we all choose and our mothers'/parents' lessons hopefully help us make better choices so we all ultimately move closer to the light. My sympathy and admiration for giving her the gift of shared life through books.
    Janet Clare F.

    1. Thanks, Janet. You're right about those choices moving us closer to the light.

  4. I'm sorry for your loss of your mother, Doraine. The poem shows the feelings of love with each memory told.

  5. I'm so grateful for your words here, Doraine... for yourself and for myself. I continue to learn self-expression from you in so many ways and on so many levels. Hugs....

    1. What are friends for?!! ;) Thanks for your conversations and support.

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  7. Thinking of you and sending love, Dori. You certainly glean all you can, in lessons and wisdom, from the relationships in your life. "A sense that the continuum from past to future has altered and there is only what lies ahead" -- well-said, and poignant.

    1. Thanks, Tabatha. An author I admire, Leanne Payne, once said that relationships call us into being. I believe it's true.

  8. What a beautiful and clear-eyed tribute. Your mother had a lot to be proud of in you. Blessings to you both -- Sandy

    1. Thanks, Sandy. That's such a kind thing to say. I believe she would.

  9. It's a beautiful tribute, Doraine. My deepest sympathies and warmest hugs to you.

  10. Oh, Doraine. This gave me goosebumps. I am so sorry for the different losses you name in this beautiful, haunting poem...and I stand in gratitude for your example of love in all times. You are wise, and yes, your mother understands it all now. xxxooo

  11. With, Amy, I got goosebumps just about everywhere. Your generous spirit brings me so much hope. Love to you.

    1. Thanks, Jeannine. I'm happy to pass the goosebumps around. Yes, hope is uppermost.

  12. And I for one (of 4) am grateful for what you learned being its beneficiary. Going through this line by line I know so many of them to be true, but without the cost. I love you mom. Grateful to be passing these lessons to be learned to my children in my own dauntless manner.

  13. Absolutely beautiful. I will carry your story in my heart.

  14. Doraine, this post is full of grace and unflinching honesty, as you are. Beautiful, as you are. Holding you close in my heart and in prayers. XOXO

  15. I am so sorry to hear of your loss, and so appreciate your beautiful tribute with its unflinching honesty and love.