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  • Writer's picturejamesbriankerr

Peaceable Man Files #32: Feeling Blessed on Mother's Day

Mom with my sister Kathleen at a recent wedding

It’s Mother’s Day, and I know I speak for my siblings when I say that our family is feeling incredibly blessed on this day.

Eleven months after she suffered a series of mini-strokes at home, our 90-year-old mother is still with us. She’s weak, frail, needs lots of help in doing things. But she recognizes everyone and is able to have conversations with all of us when we visit her at the senior home where she’s now living.

We’re even able to get her out now and then for dinner and special occasions. A couple weeks ago, she attended my niece’s wedding. Yesterday, we had Mother’s Day dinner with her at a nearby restaurant. It’s not easy for her to get out, but somehow she manages to do it.


We all recognize that our time with Mom, at least on this earth, is running out. Mom knows it as well. Whenever we visit her, she’s quick to remind us not to be sad when she’s gone, that she’s had a good life, she misses Dad, there’s another home awaiting her after this one.

Be grateful for the memories, she says, but don’t dwell on them. It’s not healthy. Stay in the present with a grateful heart and a spirit of faith and acceptance. That’s the formula for happiness.

“Do you miss the old farmhouse?” I asked her recently during a visit.

Yes, she replied, which is why she tries not to think too much about it. Just enough to remember the good times and to know we were blessed to have them.

What more could you ask for?

After Mother's Day dinner

Mom, being always and forever a mother, has been preparing us for the time she won’t be here. In the three years she lived alone in the farmhouse after Dad passed away, she was—unbeknownst to us—organizing things. She prepared bins for each of her children and our families. She wrote us each a long letter that we are to open and read when she is gone, or beforehand, if we would like.

I haven’t looked at my letter yet. I’m not ready to read it yet. I’m not sure I’ll ever be.

It is part of the human condition, I suppose, that we never fully appreciate the enormous presence of our parents until they are no longer with us. Our parents are the biggest trees in our landscape. We are used to seeing those towering trees whenever we look out the windows of our eyes.

Then one day the trees are gone and the view is entirely different, and we realize just how tall those trees were, and how the landscape of our lives will never the same without them.

My siblings and I are already getting a taste of what life will be like without our mother whenever we visit the old homestead where we grew up. The house stands empty now as we figure out what we’re going to do with it. Before, when we stepped into that house, we felt the warm presence of home. Now, all we feel is the absence of the two people who made that house a home.

I miss the old traditions. The holidays. The ability to drop in whenever we would like and know that one of our parents would be there to greet us.

Even the simple things. Every Mother’s Day for as long as I can remember, I used to bring Mom a set of hanging baskets for the house. She’s always loved red Martha Washington geraniums for their beauty and hardiness. I looked forward to bringing those beautiful baskets into the house to show to Mom before hanging them on the porch.

Mom would protest, as she always did when people brought her gifts. “I don’t want you spending money on flowers!” she’d say.

But I know she appreciated the hanging baskets, just as she appreciated the other Mother’s Day gifts and flowers given to her by my siblings. Even the most selfless of us needs to feel appreciated. It’s vitally important in life to honor those who have taken good care of us in life. That’s what this day is all about.

Mom has no place for hanging baskets now in her little apartment. So for Mother’s Day, I bought her a bouquet of flowers that she could put in a vase in her room. The cut flowers won’t last all summer long as the geraniums did, but they are something.

The fact is, Mom never needed much from us. We were the ones who needed things from her, and from our father too. We still do.

Thank you, Mom, for hanging with us through all you’ve gone through over the past year, and for all the love and memories you have given us over the decades.

We are doing our best to pass all that love onto our children. That is the greatest gift we can give them, because it’s the greatest gift you’ve given us.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there. You’re the reason we’re all here. Don’t ever, ever forget it.

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