The whole world, 2017

As far as I know, this is the only photo of Mama with me as a baby, taken early 1957.

As far as I know, this is the only photo of Mama with me as a baby, taken early 1957.

“If the whole world were put into one scale, and my mother in the other, the whole world would kick the beam.” Henry Bickersteth, Lord Langdale

Hello friends,

Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging comments. I have appreciated each one, and will respond as soon as I am able.

I wrote the post below for Mother’s Day four years ago, and I now re-post it in memory of my amazing Mama, who died yesterday. She lived only 20 months without Daddy, the love of her life, her husband of 66 years, and (during his final years) her constant caretaker. The relatively short time she lived without him was filled with suffering and heartbreak for her, but she held fast to her determined faith and indomitable spirit. Again and again, she expressed gratitude for the abundant blessings of her life, and reminded me continually that even in loss, we have reasons to give thanks. Up to the evening before Jeff’s passing, and well beyond that, she filled my life with her strength, courage, and refusal to give in to despair.

Seth, Mama, Jeff, Matt and me on September 13, 2016.
Ten days later, Jeff entered the hospital, never to return home again.

Jeff and my mother were so alike that losing her so soon after Jeff’s death resonates with the deep sadness that an abandoned child must feel. Now I carry on without the three steadfast and stalwart pillars of my life: Daddy, Mama, Jeff. No other person will ever love me as they did. None can equal their devotion, faith and diligence. No light will shine more brightly than that of their shared legacy, which marks the way ahead for me. Thanks for being with me through all this, and for caring!

The following post was first published on May 12, 2013:

Even after I became a mother, I have never liked Mother’s Day.  It seems to me an artificially contrived and ultimately inadequate invention designed primarily to sell cards and flowers, and in some cases, to assuage an adult child’s guilty conscience.  Nonetheless, I do find myself thinking of my own mother each year on this day, and feeling at a loss for words to describe what her presence has meant in my life.

Perhaps I dislike Mother’s Day mostly because none of the sentimental, flowery tributes commonly sold at this time of year ever seemed an appropriate homage to my mother, who was and is a formidable woman.  Her blunt practicality and unfailing generosity are equal to her iron will and undaunted courage in the face of adversity.  She has never been the longsuffering, quiet, kind and gentle saint portrayed by so many of the maudlin descriptions of motherhood. More than anyone I know, she embodies the truth that tough love is, in many cases, the most beneficial sort.

Yet just when she seems most intimidating, a whimsical humor will break through and leave us laughing.  She is still the one I run to when hit with unexpected sorrow or hardship.  Somehow, nothing seems quite as impossible after I’ve talked to Mom about it.  She’s been through more than most of us can imagine, but always managed to outpace almost anyone I knew.

She survived poverty and polio as a very young child, and has lived almost her entire life with only one “good” leg, but she never allowed that to slow her down. She had four children in four different states within a period of ten years, my father’s career having demanded frequent moves.  When she was nearly killed by a drunk driver going 70 mph who rammed into the driver’s door of her car, no one knew if she could ever fully recover, but she soon was back to her unrelentingly busy schedule, caring for her children and working on various church and community efforts.

Years later, when she faced brain surgery for a hemorrhaging aneurysm shortly before our wedding in 1980, she stayed true to form, stoic in the knowledge that she might not survive.  Showing no fear and little emotion of any kind, she reminded us that no matter what happened, we all should feel grateful that she had lived through the car crash and was able to care for us until we were all grown.  For as long as I can remember, she has given us a nearly flawless example of what it means to live in faith and trust that God will do what is best.  I know that example will be with me always.

So, with all due respect to those who celebrate this day, to the preachers who will preach their yearly sermon about mothers, and the restaurants that will be filled to overflowing, and the many fitting tributes of love and appreciation that will be shown today, let’s all admit that no day could ever be long enough, no tribute strong enough, to capture the gratitude so many of us feel for the amazing gifts our mothers have given us.  Happy Mother’s Day to all!

42 Comments

  1. Dear Julia,
    Thank you for this tribute to your mother. You seem to have inherited a lot of her strength. I am praying for you now, as you deal with the early realities of her passing.
    Many cyber hugs, and much love,
    Susan

    • Thank you, Susan. I hope I am able to channel some of Mama’s tenacity and insistence on staying positive and thankful. Though I still feel quite numb from everything, that’s not altogether a bad thing. I still feel the sharp pangs of loss when I wake up from dreaming about Mama, Daddy or especially Jeff and then realize that they are not with us here on earth anymore. There are times when it still feels unreal to think about, impossible that all three of them have died. But slowly I am adjusting, at least in a routine way, to living without their voices in my ears. I will hear them in my heart and mind always. Sending you love and gratitude for being with us. ❤

  2. Veronica Brown

    Dear Julia, You are in my heart and my prayers. Veronica

    • Thank you, Veronica. Your thoughts and prayers are a true gift that I deeply appreciate!

  3. hilzonsix

    Thanks for your heart sharing, Julia. I lift you up to our Lord Jesus.

    • I appreciate your being here, and I am so thankful for your prayers!

  4. Julia,
    I am so sorry for your loss. You have had too much sorrow in the last 20 months. Like your mother, you are strong. You will get through this. Your mother will always be in your heart. Listen to her. She will continue to guide you. I know she and your daddy are so happy to be together again. And Jeff is right there smiling with them. I love you.

    • Thank you, Janice. I know it was terribly hard for Mama to live without Daddy– I understand that now in a way I could not completely understand until Jeff died. Many years ago I told Mama and Daddy that I would never feel as if I had lost them, because I would always be able to hear what they would be saying to me if they were still here. Of course, that was easier to say long ago when death was still a distant abstract idea in my mind. It’s true that I know what they would be saying, but the loss is still hard, as I’m sure it is for everyone. Thanks for being here, and for caring.

  5. Sheila

    Julia, your Mama remains a strength to hold onto. May her words come to you when you least expect them. I can only imagine how this loss must feel, coming so soon after Jeff’s death. I choose to remember her sitting at the kitchen table breaking the beans or shelling the peas that Mr. Carlyle brought in from their garden. They were a lovely couple to me, although I never had the pleasure of meeting them. My condolences to you, to Carla, to Eric, to Al, and all your family. With my love, Sheila

    • Sheila, I have always been so grateful for the way you have “adopted” my family into your heart. You may have never seen them with your eyes, but you saw them with your spirit and that counts more. Your memories of Mama and Daddy are those I treasure myself. Mama and Daddy were never more content and appealing than when they were sitting together at that table sharing coffee and planning their day. At Mama’s funeral (and Daddy’s too) there were lots of garden-fresh vegetables served at the dinner afterwards. How appropriate and nourishing to body and soul. Thanks so much for being part of our lives. ❤ ❤ ❤

  6. Bob

    Julia,
    I am so sorry for your loss. I will continue to pray for you and Matt. Your courage and strength through these last few years, that you have shared via your blog, is a witness and inspiration to many. I look forward to any further post that you will share and I know your strength through faith will sustain you through these challenges. I hope you can find comfort in the many prayers offered on your behalf.

    BG

    • Bob, I do find tremendous comfort in the prayers and encouragement given to me here. I echo the words and thoughts of many other bloggers when I say that I receive so much more than I give here. Many of us who blog have been blessed with unexpected rewards that we never anticipated when we first ventured online with our thoughts, ideas, art or photographs. Thank you so much for being here, and for sharing your kind words and faith with us.

  7. Cherie

    Julia, I know exactly what you are saying about your mother. Mine was made of the same stuff! I know your mom is out of pain and in the arms of Jesus. I keep you and Matt always in my prayers. Please feel this huge hug over the miles. I love you! Love and Light. Cherie

    • Cherie, perhaps our Mamas are part of the reason we connected so instantly. I truly appreciate the love, light, prayers and that huge hug too! Sending you love, hope and gratitude! ❤ ❤ ❤

  8. Ryan

    I love you, Aunt. You are suffering most of all. My thoughts and prayers for you.

    • Thank you, Ryan. I am honored to have you here.

  9. Oh, Julia, I’m so sorry again. She sounds like she was a wonderful, formidable lady.

    • Thank you. She was, most in a wonderful way. 🙂

  10. Michael

    Wonderful tribute. In person a Steel Magnolia.

    • Definitely. One great privilege of growing up in the south is knowing so many Steel Magnolias. They come in all shapes, sizes and colors but all are unforgettable.

  11. Debbie Montigney

    I have only posted a few times but I have read most of your blogs having found you on the Upper Room site. You have changed my perspective on life. I pray for you often and the challenges you have faced with dignity. Losing parents is hard I know, but a spouse I think would be even worse. Please know others like me think of you often and pray that some of your burdens will be made lighter. Thanks for posting Jeff’s burial service I watched and cried but it was good for my soul. Hope the weather gets warmer soon and you do have some enjoyment on Mother’s Day as you deserve it.

    • Thank you so much, Debbie. I am deeply honored to think that anything I have written here has helped you or been thought-provoking in any way. Yes, losing a spouse is much harder (at least for me) than losing two very cherished parents. The impact of it all hitting so close together is a whole other thing. Jeff talked to me about it frequently after his diagnosis, as he felt that was very likely to happen to me, and he tried his best to prepare me for it. Of course one can never prepare for such things, but just talking about it with him gave me a sort of reinforcing validation. I was glad Daddy’s death happened while Jeff was still alive because I always was a “Daddy’s girl” and it would have been so much harder without Jeff there to comfort me. And Mama was a comfort to me during Jeff’s final days and the time immediately afterward, so I suppose there is a reason why things unfold as they do, or perhaps it’s simply that we can find meaning if we search for it.

      I also am honored that you watched Jeff’s ceremony. I believe he would have been pleased with it. I have watched excerpts of the video many times now, and though it is emotional, it also leaves me feeling grateful and even a bit stronger. This week, the weather has been HOT but today turned wonderfully cool. Hope your weekend is beautiful also.

  12. Dorothy Walker

    Dearest Julia, what can I say. You must be feeling so bereft. You are so right about the unconditional love given us by our parents. Losing your dear Mum so soon after losing Jeff must be quite devastating. Thinking and praying for you with love, Dorothy

    • Thank you, Dorothy. I have appreciated hearing from you during all these trials. Your thoughts and prayers mean so much! Sending my love and gratitude. ❤

  13. Sorry for your loss…you have been through so much in the last year.

    • Thank you, Denise. I keep reminding myself that what I am experiencing is fairly universal, it’s just coming a bit closer together than it usually does. But losses such as these are the great common denominator that we all share, and somehow together we manage to survive.

  14. Judy from Pennsylvania

    This photo of your mother and you entrances me. I find myself deeply drawn into it for the love and joy of motherhood that it communicates. It’s every mother, every baby. With a little change in the clothing, it would be about Madonna and Child. I melt in prolonged gazing at the beauty of it. That you would have this as your personal photo of you and your mother is priceless beyond words. Thank you for sharing it with us and for repeating your Mother’s Day post from 2013. Somehow I had missed that one, and I greatly enjoyed reading your loving testimony about your mother’s life and the wisdom she provided to her family. She was and is a remarkable woman who is now in a new and glorious phase of her eternal life. How wonderful that we can believe in the “communion of saints” for maintaining our ties to loved ones who have gone before us. Julia, may God comfort you in your time of sorrow.

    • Judy, this is one of the loveliest comments I have ever received here. Thank you so much for your gracious words about the photo. I never even realized that photo existed until fairly recently. A few years ago I borrowed some old negatives from my Dad to try out a photo scanner I got. He made that photo with his old Ikoflex that shot the big square negatives, and when I went through the negatives I could recognize many of them for which we had printed photos in the family album, but that one was total new to me. I imagine they might have sent it to my grandmother- back then, you didn’t get multiple prints for sharing! But I was so happy to have found it; had I not borrowed those negatives, the images might be lost forever. I so appreciate your words of encouragement here, always, but especially now. Thanks so much for taking the time to bring me the blessing of your kind and inspiring thoughts. Your presence here is a comfort.

  15. Carol Hoyos

    Oh Julia, how lovely your picture and how fortunate you are to have it. I guess it comes as no surprise to hear how much you resemble your mother. In fact I thought it was you holding one of your boys. Your sentiments about “Mother’s Day” are spot on. All of us who have lost their parents know a bit about how you feel. I felt and said “I feel like an orphan”….and our minister, who was there, said you’ll never be an orphan as long as you’re a child of God’s. There are many times I’ve wanted my mommy since she passed away and suppose that will always be. Your tribute to her was inspiring. If only we could all be as eloquent. We will be with you in spirit as you go through yet another funeral. I pray for peace and strength to comfort you as you wander this rocky terrain yet again. xo c

    • Carol, if you read my answer to Judy’s comment, you’ll know why I feel especially lucky to have discovered that photo fairly recently, seeing it for the first time in memory. What a lovely thought from your minister. I will remind myself of that when I feel low. Like you, I know I will miss my Mama always, but in a real sense I will have her with me for as long as I live. Mama’s funeral was lovely and a fitting tribute to her life. Thank you for your prayers, which are a great blessing and solace as I “wander this rocky terrain” – a fit analogy! ❤

  16. Lovely tribute, Julia. As you I believe every day is mother’s day. And a bouquet of love and prayers are readily available to us to offer our moms each day. And a simple thank you and kiss on the check validates to each mom the value of her station in life.
    -Alan

  17. Happy Mother’s Day to you!
    Mother’s Day might have become commercialized like all the other days we set aside to remember someone or something, but it still gives us a chance to zone in on moms.
    May it continue to be a celebration of thankfulness for you, for who your mom was and who you are to your own kids.

    • Thank you, Timi. You’re right; commercialization creeps into everything, but we need not let that spoil it for us. On Mother’s Day I will always think of my Mama, and many other people’s Mamas, with tremendous gratitude.

  18. LB

    Julia, I’m glad you shared the link back to that 2013 post. I enjoyed reading about your mother and Jeff, those hard workers!
    You have such a profound way of expressing your thoughts and for making us feel your loss. I think of you daily.

    • LB, thanks for your kind words about my writing. With subjects such as Jeff and my mother, it’s easy. 🙂 Thanks for your kind thoughts and remembrances. I keep your calendar close at hand and enjoy your lovely photographs.

  19. Julia, sorry for your loss. I can imagine what you are going through right now. The feeling of being orphaned is horrible – we are no longer ‘children’. Too many losses… I am sure God will give you the strength you need at the moment. Hugs and prayers….

    • Thank you, Bindu. You have walked this path before me, and your eloquent words about it are a comfort to me as I reach that same sad point in the journey…one we all will reach, if we are fortunate enough to live that long. Thanks for walking with me!

  20. Julia, I haven’t been here for some time; I saw your comment on Marlene’s blog. I just want to say that I lost my own Mum just over a year ago and one of her older sisters the year before that. I had lived with my Mum for most of the past 17 years and spent half my time mostly at my Aunty’s for the last three years of her life as well. We lived in the same building until a few months before my Aunty passed away. Anyway, I wanted to tell you that so that you will understand that I know in many ways the road you are travelling. It takes more time than we are told, to go through the grieving process, however we do that. I had no tears, just a dull numbness and a feeling of a hole in my heart. My Dad died in 1999, but I still miss him. In our family, there is only one Aunt left alive. These were the people who knew us when we were young, who loved us, taught us, sometimes were at odds with us. But they are forever the warp in the fabric of our lives. Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayer a great deal.s. That is the best I can offer you, but I think that having Love and Light surround us helps more than our current culture admits. I know it has helped me a great deal. Take care of yourself and do whatever helps, whether it is hibernating for a time or something else. You will know it, I’m sure. Big hugs to you from B.C. ~ Linne

    • Thank you Linne. Your beautiful comment strikes many familiar chords and is such a comfort to me. Taking time for rest or whatever brings protection from the depression is so important, but we can forget that in the rush of responsibilities that never seem to end. I agree that our culture has forgotten the immense prayer and the warm thoughts of others directed our way. Thanks so much for your hugs, thoughts and prayers…they truly do brighten my day. And thanks for being with us here!

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