I would say, “Happy Mother’s Day” to my mom, but she died more than 20 years ago.  I remember shortly after she died.  I was driving to work, and I had this strange feeling – I do not have a mother. All my life, I had a mother, but not today . . . or any day here after.  I felt so alone for the first time in my life.  I remember tears rolling down my face.  I wanted so much to tell her that I loved and appreciated her.

Bessie Lee, that was her name.  She grew up during the Great Depression, and her family was dirt poor.  Her mother was half Cherokee, and her father was an outlaw and a total alcoholic.  She was the oldest of four children – Bessie and the three brothers that she raised. Her father regularly beat and abused the entire family.  She once told me how embarrassed she was because her dresses came from sewing flour sacks together.  The girls in school ridiculed her for being so poor.  In the winter, she and her brothers went to school with no shoes.  It was so cold that they would step in warm cow patties to warm their feet.  After eighth grade, she quit school to earn an income so that the family would not starve.  She was always embarrassed and thought of herself as ignorant.

Why do I tell you this?  Because I never remember her being a victim. She never said, “Woe is me,” or was angry at the people who abused her.  She loved to write poetry, and I thought it was very good.  She was a kind person. She did the best she could even through two abusive marriages and several nervous breakdowns.  For me, she was the only parent.  My stepfather was abusive and cruel mentally and physically.  I never really knew who my biological father was.  He abandoned my mother at my birth and said that I was not his son, so I had one parent: my mother.

I do not believe she was spotless. I would tell her that she was my travel agent, because she sent me on so many guilt trips.  She was never abusive, was a beautiful woman, and I loved her.  I think about Jesus and His mother.  Mary had absolute faith in Jesus.  There was no doubt in her mind that He could and should turn that water into wine when she asked (John 2:1-11). Jesus gave some resistance to this being His first public miracle, yet He was obedient to His mother.

On the cross, Jesus specifically took time to ensure His mother would be taken care of (John 19:25-27).  He made sure that John, His beloved disciple, would assume responsibility and total care of His mother.  Jesus, the first-born, was also telling His mother that he was transferring His responsibility to take care of her.

My mother never came across as a victim.  She never tried to use her sickness or abuse as leverage for manipulation.  Thank you, Mother.  Remember the good and praise God.  And if your mother was like Mary, you’re blessed.  If your mother was not nurturing like Mary, at least she carried you for nine months.  Praise her for any good.  This Mother’s Day, realize that you are who you are because your mother shaped you, or you are who you are because God filled in the emptiness and nurtured you like a mother.

Thank you, Mom.

— Written by Pa

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Back: Walter (Bessie’s Brother), Bessie Lee (Pa’s Mom), WH (Bessie’s Brother), Granny (Pa’s Maternal Grandmother)
Front: Pat (Pa’s Sister), and Pa