I love you. As we celebrate Mother’s Day I am reminded of the beauty and strength of Mothers all over the world who nurture and tend to their children’s needs 24/7/365. You were no different Mom. Today, I imagine you in Heaven with your dancing shoes on, free to be you, singing joyfully your favorite spiritual song “Glory, Glory Hallelujah, Since I Laid My Burdens Down” and feeling safe and unconditionally loved by the Lord you loved so much on your earthly journey. Quite a different experience from your own life here on earth, which was filled with tragedy, poverty and fear, yet you had faith and hope that one day you would know peace. I imagine you know what that feels like now, and that makes me happy.
I came into your life when you were in your mid forties. I was your 9th child, and 7th son. Although I don’t actually remember it, the circumstances surrounding my birth were difficult at best, for several reasons. Not that I need any more reasons to love you, but when I learned just how much you had to overcome in your life, I was inspired by your shear will power and faith to overcome all the obstacles in your path. What transpired in a matter of 2 years just prior to my birth, could have easily fractured and separated any family, yet somehow even with hearts broken and your life shattered, your faith pulled you and your family through.
As the words flow from my heart onto this page as I tell the intimate details of your life, it’s hard to hold back the tears. The truth is your life story has given me hope and faith and has given me the strength I’ve needed to get through the hard times in my own life. One of the many gifts a Mother gives to her children.
Two years before I was born you gave birth to twins, Bessie and Jesse, however this joyful occasion became a tragic one. Bessie and Jesse were premature so they were put in incubators. Sadly the temperature in the incubator was too high, and the twins both died a horrendous death within a few short hours. My siblings years later, described the situation to me. I was told the twins skin looked and felt like crispy fried chicken which peeled off in your hands Mom, as you held their lifeless bodies in your arms, a visual image etched in my brain forever. I can’t even imagine the depth of your disbelief and pain. A year later, in September tragedy struck again. Walter Ale, your 6 year old son while having his tonsils removed by the local country doctor, the doctor cut a main artery during the operation and Walter bled to death on the operating table. Still mourning your loss of the twins, now Walter too, the family endured struggling emotionally but needed to work to keep a roof over their heads and food on their table. Within 4 short months I would be born. I was born just after midnight, but what happened in the hours just prior to my birth caused me to also be born early. On the evening of my birth, as you were rushing to get your other children inside the house to safety in a dangerous electrical storm, you with me still in your womb were hit by ricocheted lightening, and a few hours later I was born premature delivered by a midwife in a share cropper cabin on the Glen Lillie Farm where you and Dad lived and worked in the fields. Somehow through it all you held our fractured family together, keeping a closer eye and a heightened protective spirit on all your children until your death, because it is what Mom’s do.
Although your burdens were great, I remember your smile as it lit up the room. I remember eating Sunday suppers with your homemade biscuits and gravy, fried chicken, and collard greens from the garden. I remember the hats you wore to church. I remember your face when all you had to feed me was sugar water because that’s all we had. I remember your smile, when I took your seasoned cast iron skillet outside, where I tried to clean in by rubbing and scraping it with dirt and water to clean it up. I had wanted to really clean it up for you, and you never let me know that I had ruined it. I also need to ask for your forgiveness Mom. All my life until I was fifteen we celebrated my birthday on January 15th. When I needed to get my birth certificate to get my drivers license and my birth certificate showed I was actually born on the 16th I was hurt and angry with you that you didn’t even know your own son’s birthday. Once I knew the truth surrounding my birth, I clearly see and understand why. I’m sorry I questioned your love for me in that moment. As an adult I see how foolish I was to question your love for me. I am sorry. Somehow Mother’s always seem to move past their own pain, fear and disappointments to look after their children as best as they can. I will always be grateful to you Mom.
Although you passed a long time ago, I am inspired by your story and how you just kept going in spite of the difficulties you faced daily. Today, way too many Mothers are losing their children to gun violence, poverty and fear. I hope you can hear me Mom, because I want you to know I am filled with gratitude that you were my Mother, and I can’t even imagine how difficult it was for you to raise your children, with all the heartbreaking tragedy you faced head on. I see your face Mom, when I see the Mother’s faces today, who display their beauty, strength, and their unwavering quest for justice for their children, like you. They endure the pain of losing a child. Yet life goes on, Mothers just keep moving forward, they never give up, they always find a way out of no way.
I salute you Mom and all the Mother’s in the world and in Heaven.
Love from your 7th son,
Happy Mother’s Day!