What is a Mother? *In remembrance of MaryAnn Mather, 1929-2015*

I’ve been blessed to have a number of incredible role models in my life, one being my Grandmother, MaryAnn.  We called her Grandma Mares, since Mares was my Grandfather’s nickname for her.  Grandma Mares recently passed away on July 20th, 2015, after a long and incredibly challenging battle with Alzheimer’s.  She was the paragon of ‘Mother’ and everything she did was in love and service to her family and her community.

Several years back, and a couple years after her diagnosis, my parents moved my Grandmother into their home to care for her.  My mom and I cleaned out her home and boxed up her belongings, keepsakes, and photo albums to be stored at my house. One day, I was going through some papers in my spare room and came across a yellowed, creased piece of paper with a poem typed on it.  I don’t know where the poem actually came from, but I believed it must have been from my Grandma’s house.  The poem was about a mother, and the circle of life.  It was from the point of view of the mother, and talked about how her children should not grieve for her, because as she cared for them, now they will care for her.  I read it, and cried, and although I believed my thoughts to be pretty morbid, I thought it perfectly embodied what my mother and her siblings were going through and that when the time came, this could be read at my Grandmother’s funeral.  So I put it in safe keeping.

Years passed, and as what naturally happens when you put something in safekeeping, I could not find it in the days following Grandma Mares’ passing.  I searched my house.  I googled to try and find it online.  But without remembering the title, or the author (I think it was anonymous), I could not find anything.  My mother asked me if I would give the eulogy, and my efforts to find this poem doubled.  The night before her funeral, I gave up searching, and wrote my own.  I sent a group text, late that night, to my siblings and cousins asking for memories, and incorporated them into the eulogy.  If I ever do find the poem, I’ll post it. But here is my version, written specifically for my Grandma Mares, and read at her funeral:

What is a mother?

A mother is your first teacher.  Your most important teacher.  She is the first caress you feel, the first scent you smell, the first voice you hear.

She is your first kiss.

She is the one who holds you, protects you, and keeps you warm when it’s cold.  

She is your first experience of kindness, of love.  And through her, you learn to also love.

She is the one who celebrates your first steps, and is there to catch you when you stumble.

She is the one who encourages your first words, and understands you when you don’t know how to say what you feel.

She is the one who holds your hand in support, no matter what.

She is the one who hugs you for no reason, and holds you tighter, and for longer, when there is a reason.

She is the one who sees you through each stage of life, relentless in her support and encouragement. Unyielding in her love.

She is MaryAnn. Mom. Ma. Gram. She is Grandma Mares.

She is someone who will make homemade pizza, and leave a few slices cheese-less because she knows you only like the crust and sauce.  

Someone who will bake about 15 different kinds of Christmas cookies each year, and know to save you your favorites ones, like the red and white twisted candy canes, and the rum logs that always seemed to go too fast, and best-ever sugar cookies with homemade frosting that no one can seem to replicate.

Someone who made you angel ornaments of all different shapes and sizes each year, and put them in a plastic shoe box with your name on it in sticker letters, which you keep for the rest of your life and pull out every Christmas.

Someone who would allow you to help her in putting up her beloved Christmas decorations, and Manger scene with the huge colored light bulbs, and let you do it however you wanted.  And then with absolute pride in her eyes tell everyone that you helped.

Someone who would work tirelessly in her gardens, only to let small children run through them picking and eating all the beans and cherry tomatoes, and pulling up the potatoes.

Someone who would make ‘going for a walk’ the best part of your day, and always let the anticipation build as to whether we would make it to the big rock at the end of the street.  Then let us jump and climb all over it until we were tired and couldn’t climb anymore.

Someone who would send you off trick or treating, and then when you arrived back at her door and yell out “Trick or treat!” to trick her into thinking it wasn’t you, would always play along and act surprised.  

Someone who dedicates her life to her community, in order to make it the kind of community in which she wants to raise her children.  Sending her children to the very school on these grounds, and sitting in these very pews for the better part of 50 years.  Who supported, and funded, and baked for every fundraiser imaginable, and attended every event for her children, even though she also had a career and worked many hours outside of the home. Who, after retiring, dedicated her time to the care and support of the elderly through volunteer work.

Someone who continues to love and give and love some more, her children, grandchildren, her family, her friends.

A mother is someone who teaches us how to care.

Because when the time comes, we are called to care for our neighbors, in the ways our mother taught us.

We are called to care for our own children, in the ways our mother showed us.

We are called to care for each other, in the ways our mother cared for each of us.

And when our mother has come to the end of her journey, she has given us everything of herself, and we are prepared.

So when she is frail, we hold her and protect her, and keep her warm when it’s cold.

When she begins to stumble in her steps, we are there to catch her and strong enough to carry her.

When she loses her voice, we are able to understand her even though she is unable to tell us how she feels.

When she needs support, we are the ones to hold her hand, and we are the ones to hug her and hold her tight for endless reasons.

And when she has bravely reached her final moments, and has showed us how to care, and to encourage, to support, and to love; when she has finished teaching us all she knows, we are the ones to see her through to her next stage. And because of her, we are relentless in our support and encouragement.  Unyielding in our love.

Thanks for reading. 🙂

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