Mother’s Day always brings memories of my mother to me. In fact, I spend more time on Mother’s Day thinking about my own mother than I ever spend thinking about being honored as a mother. I am sure this is because my mother passed away one week before Mother’s Day and so “Mom” and “Mother’s Day” are connected on a whole different level for me.
On Saturday, May 5, 1979, my mother had a massive heart attack and quickly passed away. I made airline arrangements in order to fly from Alaska to Utah as quickly as possible. My children and I arrived the evening before her funeral on Tuesday, May 8, and were quickly encircled in the arms of my father and siblings. I spent a few days with my father and siblings and then went to spend Mother’s Day with my mother-in-law. We were sitting in sacrament meeting when a friend leaned over the pew and complimented me on bringing the grandchildren to share Mother’s Day with my mother-in-law. I became so choked up with tears that I could not reply, but my sweet mother-in-law quickly explained the situation. Mother’s Day 1979 was extremely difficult for me!
Mother’s Day 1980 was not much easier. Tears flowed down my cheeks as I sat in sacrament meeting listening to Primary children, including my own little children, sing songs of love and appreciation to their mothers. One particular Primary song touched my heart because it reminded me so much of my own mother. This song is entitled “I Often Go Walking” (#202) and was written by Phyllis Luch with music by Jeanne P. Lawler. My children and grandchildren often sing this song for me because they know I love it.
I often go walking in meadows of clover,
And I gather armfuls of blossoms of blue.
I gather the blossoms the whole meadow over;
Dear mother, all flowers remind me of you.
O mother, I give you my love with each flower
To give forth sweet fragrance a whole lifetime through;
For if I love blossoms and meadows and walking,
I learn how to love them, dear mother, from you.
Even though thirty-four years have come and gone since my mother passed away, the memories of her bring tears to me once again. My mother’s favorite color was blue like the clover in the song. She loved all flowers, but she particularly loved yellow roses. I do not know why she favored yellow roses, but I suspect that her reason is much like my own reason for doing so. My family lived on a farm during my childhood and youth, and our home was located about a quarter of a mile from the main road where our mailbox stood. Our meetinghouse was located not far from our mailbox. A beautiful yellow rose bush stood just inside the fence of a cow pasture located along the road. I, with other members of my family, walked along that road many times each summer, and each time we walked down the road we would pass the yellow rose bush. There were not many flowers – besides sunflowers – in the area, and the rose bush was so beautiful and had such a wonderful fragrance that it stood in stark contrast to its surroundings. The rose bush once stood by a gate with a path leading to a home, but the house had burned and the pathway was overgrown. Yet the rose bush stood and provided great beauty and fragrance to all who passed by.
Even though yellow roses are my favorite flower, I also have fond memories of the beautiful purple iris that grew in the garden at the meetinghouse. Since my mother was the Church custodian, she also had responsibility to care for the flowers. I remember the iris being large and beautiful, and now I enjoy the beautiful iris of many different colors grown by my older brother and his wife in their large lot.
My mother loved flowers, but she had a difficult time growing them due to the soil around our home containing a lot of alkali. Hollyhocks were one flower that Mom could grow, and they seemed to thrive where she planted them. This may have been because we hauled good black soil back from the mountains each summer just for Mom’s flowers. To this day, roses, iris, and hollyhocks are all special to me.
My mother also loved to walk. I suspect that she walked for the opportunity to have some time alone because she had a large family in a small house and many responsibilities. I also suspect that her many children got on her nerves occasionally. I do not remember her yelling or screaming at us, but I do remember that she would suddenly leave the house and be gone for a while. There were other times when we would all go walking up into the foothills near our farm and have an enjoyable time.
Mother’s Day 1981 was a little easier for me, and I could enjoy the beautiful singing of the children to their mothers. This year I was asked to share a few thoughts about mothers and Mother’s Day in Relief Society. I shared how I had lost my mother just before Mother’s Day a couple years previously and how difficult Mother’s Day had become for me. I also shared some of the good character traits of my mother. One of her best traits was her ability to speak well of other people. I do not remember ever hearing her speak unkindly of anyone. She taught us “If you can’t say anything good, don’t say anything at all,” and she lived what she taught.
I remember how Mom seemed to know when her older children were coming home. She would say to us, “Dick (or whoever it was) is coming today.” How do you know? Did he tell you he would be here? “No, I just know he is coming.” Sure enough, the expected person would arrive before the day was over. This happened numerous times and with numerous children. Somehow, Mom knew when her children were coming home!
Like all good mothers, my mother also made many sacrifices for her children. A favorite story in our family is how Mom stayed up all night to crochet an outfit for a doll so that my older sister could take her doll to school for show-and-tell. Mom was always willing to stop what she was doing in order to help her child or children.
When I was in the first grade, I missed the after school bus. My mother had given birth to my little sister, her eleventh child, just a few days previously. When she learned that I had not been on the bus, she immediately jumped in the car to go get me. My oldest sister, who had just arrived home from school, grabbed the baby and jumped in the car with her. I understand that Mom broke the speed limit as she drove the ten miles to the school. My teacher knew that my mother would be there as quickly as she could get there, and she stayed with me until Mom arrived.
Mom was my “security blanket,” but I did not know it until after she passed away. I was a wife with several children when Mom died, and yet I felt as though I was a little child. I found this very strange because my mother and I did not have a particularly close relationship. She was the mother, and I was the child. We spoke of things that we needed to speak about, but our relationship was definitely not one of “friends.” I moved to Alaska about six years before Mom died and made just a few trips home in those years; we wrote occasional letters but only made emergency telephone calls. We did not make many long distance telephone calls during those years because calls from Alaska were very expensive.
I returned home for a family reunion in August 1978. It was a joyous reunion and the only time that Mom had all her children together in one place. She gave birth to twelve children over a period of twenty-four years, and three of her children were married with babies of their own when Mom gave birth to her last child. (The next time all her children were together was at her funeral.) As I sat on the airplane waiting to return to Alaska, my parents were standing on the tarmac waving to me. The Holy Ghost whispered to me that the next time I visited them would be for a funeral, but I had no idea when that time would come or whose funeral it would be.
A week before Mom died, my husband called his parents on some matter of business, and after he hung up the telephone, I was prompted to call my mother. I could not think of anything to tell her besides “I love you, Mom” so I did not make that call. A week later when I learned of her death I very much regretted that I had not called Mom and told her one last time how much I love her. I know that she has forgiven me for my thoughtlessness because she has visited me in my dreams on several different occasions, particularly when I needed the security of feeling my mother near me.
“Mother” is such a wonderful name, and my mother was – and still is – worthy of being honored by her posterity. In fact, I believe the following poem was inspired by a mother such as mine. “The Name of Mother” was written by George Griffith Fether (Best-Loved Poems of the LDS People, edited by Jack M. Lyon and others (1996), 218).
The holiest words my tongue can frame,
The noblest thoughts my soul can claim,
Unworthy are to praise the name
More precious than all other.
An infant, when her love first came,
A man, I find it still the same,
Reverently I breathe her name,
The blessed name of mother.
Mothers of all ages, races, and religions are special to their children and those they mother, and Mother’s Day is an appropriate time to honor them. Several faith groups produced this non-denominational video message for Mother’s Day because they wanted to remind all people everywhere of the importance of families and the place that mothers hold in them. I love the statement, "Life doesn't come with a manual. It comes with a mother."
For those young mothers who are in the front lines of rearing children, I am including a link to some good advice from Ann Romney. In this video, Mrs. Romney – who would have been a wonderful First Lady – shares some of her secrets to the magic of mothering.
Mother’s Day has become a wonderful day for me because I spend the day thinking about my mother and the special place she holds in my heart. I know that the love of a mother such as mine is powerful and has great influence. I know that my mother has gone ahead and is preparing a mansion for her posterity for eternity. This knowledge has motivated me to live a good life in order that I can join my mother and father one day and be with them forever. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!