"A person who has children does not die." Nigerian proverb
My mother, Mary Parker Brown, passed away in March 2010 at the age of 72 following a nine month battle with leukemia. I do mean battle; she fought with everything she had—grit, will and focused strength. In spite of this disease occupying her body, God had blessed my mother with a sturdy internal and external frame that allowed her to stand against this leveling leukemia for as long as she did.
When I spoke at her home-going service, the things I’ve said about her all my life rang clear to all. “She was one of the most determined people I’ve ever known and the hardest working woman from Waverly.” Whether it was raising four children as a single parent or willingly working the challenges of a chemical factory job for 35 years, she fervently ‘did what she had to do.’
For my mother, staying on task as mother, head of household and later “Nanny” (the endearing name her three grandchildren called her), propelled her actions. Committing the funds and schedule for fun and cultural activities held a high priority for my mother. She was energetic, living within and without her limitations—enjoying these trips as much as we did. I saw her dance the twist and the pony—loving our spirited music and moving her body. Watching her enjoy family, friends, faith and fun inspired me in knowing you get, give and go on this journey of life with joy and determination. Holidays were honored with the rituals of Santa Claus, turkey and Easter frocks. My mother always put forth the effort to make sure we understood the true meaning of these events—love and God. I cherish these memories of my childhood.
My mother also stayed on course with other rites of passage for her children. At age 15 and 8 months, I enthusiastically waited for the time to get my learner’s permit. Ready to drive the country roads —yes I was! It was my time— legally and my mother thought I was emotionally ready to pivot this type of responsibility. She trusted me and allowed me to take the car to visit friends in neighboring towns—another ritual she knew that was important in allowing me to grow and go.
In fighting her illness—and strong-willed to the end—my mother continued on with her life’s loves and business in whatever way she could—paying bills, managing errands and going to church. She never would let us know just how much pain she was in. She was good at masking the side effects of her treatment. Some very challenging conversations took place between us over what she could reasonably do after her diagnosis. Independence remained important to her.
I remember an occurrence from my mother’s last weekend at home before being readmitted to the hospital in February 2010. I had just spent time visiting her the day before and was calling to check in. She didn’t answer the phone. My nieces were there with her and my thought was that they might still be asleep. Feeling something wasn’t right, I kept dialing until she finally picked up the phone. I found out later from my nieces that my mother had driven to McDonald’s to get a cup of coffee. I think she’d sensed her time was short, deciding to drive her car one last time. My mother just summoned up her last pieces of power—going and going right up until the Lord called her ‘up yonder’.
My mother’s drive on this side is now over. She provided an example of sheer will and a strong work ethic for me. And I think of this when I get stuck or waylaid in my life. She taught me to drive, pass some of life’s tests and now has turned the steering wheel over to me— to keep going. The operating hardware and software of her IPS (Internal Positioning System) spiritually resides on my dashboard, with God —my ever present Pilot, the main engaging button.
What thrusts us forward in the face of our journey’s inevitable roadblocks?