a mother’s strength, revisited

Last night, I sat in a circle with seven women inside Vermont’s women’s prison talking about the roots of Mother’s Day. I read Julia Ward Howe’s  “Mother’s Day Proclamation – 1870 (watch dramatic reading here.)

Portrait drawing of poet, anti-slavelry activi...

Drawing of poet, anti- slavelry activist and suffragette Julia Ward Howe (Wikipedia)

Most of us have no idea that Mother’s Day originated as a movement toward international peace. Reading Howe’s words today feels as immediate and relevant as if they had just been written. Sadly. And, on a more personal note, finding peace with mother – within and without –  continues for many women to be a lifelong struggle.

One of the prompts offered last light was to share a remembered scene of my mother, something learned that I want to take with me today.  Read JL’s moving story below.
It’s funny how advice given, the best advice given, isn’t meant to be advice at all.

I’ll never forget the afternoon, about eight years ago or so, my mother came home from work, or being out running errands – I’m not sure exactly what it was that occupied her time. Anyway, I looked into her bedroom and she was laying there on the bed, curled up and frail-looking. She was sobbing as quietly as one can sob. I immediately felt uncomfortable.

At the time, I wasn’t any good at dealing with emotion; raw emotion, especially my mother’s sadness. I had never really remembered seeing her this way. I called in to her and almost with an annoyed tone in my voice asked her: “are you OK? what’s wrong with you?!!!”

In retrospect, the annoyance came out to cover the fear – the fear I felt at someone who I automatically assumed had to be stronger, braver, something-er more than the image of this curled-up crying-Mom-on-a-bed.  She told me that ‘yes,’ she was OK; she was just sad.

‘Well, that’s absurd!’ I thought. “Why are you sad!” I demanded more than asked.

“No reason,” she replied. “Sometimes it’s just what happens. I just need to lay here and feel it; and then I will move on.”

With that I descended the stairs, thinking this woman is quite nearly off her rocker.

But it always stuck with me, that simple scene of my mother on her bed. All these years later, it still does. My mother has 20 years sobriety this year, and I have just begun that journey, once again, for myself. All those years spent trying not to feel.

What I mistook as her weakness was her strength . . . to feel, good and bad; to accept, to embrace and move on. She is the strongest woman I know.


2 thoughts on “a mother’s strength, revisited

    • Sarah says:

      Thanks for your comment, Anne. Her understanding came through so clearly in the writing – and when she read it aloud to us, you could just see the wheels turning. I love this work!!!


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