Remembering Mom At Thanksgiving

Our first Thanksgiving without her

My mom’s importance is more vivid now that her memories are all I have.

November 28, 2019. The first Thanksgiving our mom’s chair will be empty. Is there a magical pill I can take to get through it? Is there a miracle elixir I can take to erase the pain? Are there words anyone can say?

“She’s in a better place.”

“She’s left her burdens behind.”

“She has her reward.”

I know. I know. She’s in a much better place. I know.

But that chair. That empty chair.




Alone in my thoughts — and with my words — I reflect on the the day. Perhaps solitude is the best setting for a writer in such a moment.

I thought about trying my hand at baking a pecan pie, my mom’s favorite during this season. But I decided to finish this blog post instead. I can always pick one up later, baked by folks who know what they’re doing. But there will be one at the dessert table. For my mom.

This week, I had the chance to review my work while in the process of updating my resume. Even though I shouldn’t be, I was surprised how much of my mom was prominently featured in my writing. So much of what I am today is because of her, so why wouldn’t she be?

At a deeper level, I know I also wanted to make sure she — and the world — understood what she meant to me. To all of us. Too often we wait to show special folks how much we love them. Then, it’s too late. There’s always tomorrow, right?

But, sooner or  later, we run out of tomorrows and we regret the opportunities we missed.

It reminds me of a few songs I’ve heard on the subject. One is titled “Give Me My Roses“, written by Sullivan Pugh of the gospel group The Consolers, who originally recorded it in 1961. It made such a strong message, it was also recorded by Rev. James Cleveland and has been sung by many.  The lyrics explain what I tried to do: give my mom her flowers while she still could smell their beautiful fragrance.

But as her light began to dim, I wondered if I’d done enough. I used the one unfailing talent the lord gave me to honor her.

Here are the original lyrics to the song “Give Me My Rose“:

Give me my flowers
While I yet live
So that I, I, I can see the beauty
That they bring

Speak kind words to me
While I can hear them
So that I, I, I can hear the comfort
That they bring

Friends and loved ones
May give me flowers
When I’m sick?
Or on my sick bed
But I’d rather have
Just one tulip right now
Than a blanket full of roses
When I’m dead

Give me my flowers
While I yet live
So that I, I, I can see the beauty
That they bring

Speak kind words to me
While I can hear them
So that I, I, I can hear the comfort
That they bring

Here are The Consolers singing this classic gospel song:

 

Thank God For My Momma

In 2006, I penned a story in the form of a letter to my mom, thanking her for always being the strong hand that guided me through life.

I submitted it to a project that would ultimately become the book Letters To My Mother: Tributes To The Women Who Give Us Life — and Love. It was a collection of love letters to our mothers from 60 authors. I decided to keep it a secret until its Mother’s Day 2007 release. As the book moved toward publication, it because more and more difficult to hold my tongue. I almost spilled the beans several times.

But when I saw this book review from The Oklahoman, a publication in Oklahoma (of course!), I knew I’d better plan my presentation soon:

One especially touching letter, by Lawrence D. Elliot to his mother, Etter Jean, says, “When we found ourselves without a warm bed, a roof over our heads or even the knowledge of where our next meal would come from, you didn’t give up. You rolled up your sleeves and went out to find a way.”

We all went out to breakfast as a family. I read her story and presented her with the book. We captured her rare display of emotions in a photo.

For that, she was honored on TV on the KTLA 5 Morning News (Los Angeles, California).

Other Places Of Honor For My Mom

The story “Doing It Right” (read it here for free) was originally published in the book Not Your Mother’s Book… On Family.

My mom and I were interviewed in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune (“Pause to Reflect: Local author pens story close to home“). That was nice.

They always say the first holidays are the hardest, but does that mean they’ll get easier? My guess is not for a while. Perhaps never. 

But family and friends will be gathered together to give thanks for what we have, just as my mom would want. Tears of pain will be mixed with laughter over happier memories. That’s my prayer. My mom would want that, too.

I’m grateful to have had my mom for as long as I had her. Through the good times and the bad. During the easier moment and the toughest of them. We didn’t always see eye-to-eye. One of the many lessons she taught me was to think for myself. I guess it stuck. But looking back now, neither of us knew how much alike we were. In so many ways.

That’s an honor I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.