want to take this opportunity to celebrate my mom, Marion Sawyer of
Gloucester, Mass. She is my best friend. She has been amazing all
my 33 years on earth. She has had her fair share of struggles in
life yet she is so caring and loving, always doing for others.
Sometimes this drives me nuts because she is always putting herself
last. She is doing what the Lord calls us to do, though: “to
serve, not be served.”
She has taught me so many great life lessons. She was a teenage
mother at 16 and didn’t finish high school. She got her GED right
before I graduated high school, just to get it before I did. For a
good amount of my life, she was a single mother doing the best she
could to raise my brother and I. We didn’t have it all, but we had
her love. What else more could one possibly need?
She has also taught me how to be a complete horror movie buff. We
always enjoy watching the latest horror movie together, most of the
time picking on its silliness. We talk on the phone almost
daily. We can easily spend hours a month talking about nothing at
all. She is also a wonderful Nana, a title she holds dear. Anyone
around her is blessed to know her.
In my eyes, she is absolutely amazing. I would not trade her for
anything in the world.
–Jennifer Mayo, Waterboro
Still with me
I can remember the
way my mother smelled. It wasn’t sweet perfume or the odor of
scented sachets – it was the smell of cigarettes. Not a pleasant
smell, but my earliest memories are of me lying against my mother’s
(full bosomed) chest in the front seat of the Chevy Impala and
feeling comfortable nuzzled in her chest with the familiar smell of
cigarettes. There were no seat belts at that time. And I remember
hearing her voice through her chest – or through my ear pressed
against her chest.
Sometimes I still hear her voice in a dream. She never says
anything earth shattering or revealing – mostly she is calling my
name. The spirit messengers and people who communicate with those
who have passed on would say that she is calling my name to let me
know that she is still with me. I hear her voice in dreams fairly
often. If she is still with me, I think that’s a good a
My mother was a good mom. I did not have a great relationship with
my mom. I was her third and “most difficult” and “challenging”
child. But, I completely loved and respected her. She stayed
married to the same man for something like 57 years -– my father, a
man I found to be “difficult” and “challenging.” When I think about
my mom today, I think she was almost always in conflict between
being a mom and being a wife. In her world, the two did not flow
Away from my father, Mom would relax more and at times she was
silly. She would laugh and tell stories around the dinner table
when my father worked the third shift. As I child, I looked forward
to my father working the third shift, knowing that we might linger
at the table in the evening and hear stories from Mom, joined by
her mom, who lived with us all throughout my childhood. My
grandmother only came to the dinner table when my father worked
third shift and on holidays.
Mom and I had some good “girl” times. We would shop or go to the
beach, often accompanied by my aunt or another woman friend of
Mom’s and we had a lot of fun. It was Mom and my aunt who took me
to visit all of the colleges on my list. It was Mom who came to see
me in the high school variety show when I came out on stage in one
of her girdles and I could hear her laughing above everyone else in
the audience. She did have a great laugh. Typically, when she got
going she would laugh until she cried. I inherited this from
Mom was a wonderful grandmother to my children. She “let go” more
and allowed herself to be silly and laugh and play – not something
I remember her doing as much as my mom. She delighted in every
moment that she was with them, sitting for hours playing cards,
reading, or baking with them.
Mom died a couple of years ago after struggling with Alzheimer’s
for many years. When she first began to display symptoms of the
disease – primarily memory loss and repetition – I was impatient
with her, and she would get really angry with me. It didn’t take me
long to realize what was happening and it didn’t take me long to
stop correcting or reminding her. Initially, I got used to hearing
the same stories and answering the same questions each week during
our regular phone conversations. The only thing I found to ease the
anxiety and stress in the last months with Mom was to ask her
questions about her mother, her children, her life. She didn’t
remember that I was her daughter, but she could tell me about her
daughter. These became my favorite stories.
The last time I saw Mom, she lay in deep coma-sleep in a hospice in
Needham, Mass. It was early on a Wednesday morning in December
2008. I had accepted the loss of Mom years earlier from the disease
that stole her life. On this last morning, I simply said, “Thank
you, Mom,” one last time.
–Lee Hews, Durham
A good heart – and an inspiration
My mom was
an alcoholic. But don’t assume she was a bad mother. She was
Her parents were immigrants who met in New York City over 100 years
ago. Mom’s mother came from Czechoslovakia. Her dad, a trolley car
driver in New York, came from Germany.
The second of four children, my mom excelled in school and skipped
grades. Not just one grade or two. She skipped half a dozen. She
flew through high school and entered tuition-free Hunter College
where she double- majored in zoology and botany. Here’s the real
kicker. She graduated from her four-year college at 17.
What happened next sowed the seeds of my mother’s alcoholism.
After a few years in a professional job, she married my dad, a good
man who happened to be a conservative engineer. By the mid-1940s
they had three sons and a Colonial-style house on a hill. My dad
didn’t want a working wife. And the middle class neighborhood in
which we lived exerted pressure. Women were assumed to be content
caring for children and keeping a clean house. Despite her
education and good mind, my mother didn’t buck the system. She was
bored and depressed. Gin was her medication.
Still, my mom was a good parent in many, many ways. She had great
appreciation for the birds and trees that surrounded our house, and
taught me names of them all. She bought me chickens when I
expressed an interest in owning a flock, and cried with me when a
dog ate half of them.
My two younger brothers and I had some of the problems kids face in
alcoholic families. Police warned mom for erratic driving, but
never ticketed her. I remember running to our father’s car one
evening with the words, “Mom’s missing!” We searched the woods to
no avail. My youngest brother eventually found mom passed out on
the living room couch.
Of course, it would have been better if my mom had not had this
disease, and I get blue thinking about her unfilled potential. But
what I remember most about my mother is her good heart and the way
she inspired me to appreciate art, birds, plants, clouds and
everything else in the natural world. Thanks, Mom.
–Lloyd Ferriss, Richmond
The big thing about my mom is
that she was gone too soon, dead of a heart attack when her
daughters were 15 and 13.
Other people who knew her tend to shake their heads, even now, 30
years later, because she helped bring it on herself, smoking
unfiltered Pall Malls and drinking too much bourbon. There’s a lot
I would change for her, if I could go back in time. Instead,
though, I’ll share some of the things she taught me.
• Music is not just to hear, but to make. Even if the only singing
you do is the National Anthem at the baseball game, put your heart
into it and enjoy it.
• Books are more important than pretty much anything else you can
• Go to college. Then live on your own after college for at least a
• If you have to do housework, get it over with early in the
• Spelling counts.
• If you ever fail to vote in any election, no matter how
unimportant, I will come back from the grave and haunt you.
I have some of her things now. Some are the kinds of things any
family might save, such as her engagement diamond and her college
yearbook. Others, like the “poison ring” into which she once
sprayed Raid, are still around because of the stories I
Perhaps the best things she left me were a wonderful dad and her
best friend, a lifelong honorary “aunt” who remains one of the most
cherished people in my life.
–Patricia J. Washburn, Portland