Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Letter From Jane: Mother's Day

Dear Readers,

It’s Mother’s Day.  I woke up this morning thinking of you—of your humble, sincere questions and of your beautiful children.  I thought about how you’ve blessed my life—how happy I am just knowing that you’re waking up this morning to your children….again.  They’re young—most of them and don’t know how to really honor you today.  They might make a card for you at church.  They’ll give you hugs and kisses.  If you’re lucky, your on-the-ball husband helped them buy you a gift.  But, truly, they don’t understand yet what you are to them or how to adequately honor you.  You are like breathing to them—as natural as air.  They don’t understand yet that your love is shaping their life—that your constant presence is what makes them feel safe as they explore the world. 

My sister, Judy, died many years ago and left five children—ages 15 down to 3.  I was expecting my first baby when she died.  Seeing that little row of children sitting in front of me at their mother’s funeral was the most heart-breaking scene of my life.  She had been a wonderful mother.  She had fully devoted herself to those little children and now she was gone.  It seemed unbelievable that most of them would not remember her and how she loved them.  And it’s true.  Her daughter Chris was 10 when she died and years later, she had only a few isolated memories of her mother.  But each of the five children have turned out to be wonderful people and exceptional parents.  They have her dry humor and wise perspective.  Many people have had a hand in their lives, but I know that Judy’s love was there during their most formative years.  The mother they can’t remember shaped them and set their course for life.

Most of what you do each day for your little ones will not be remembered.   They will definitely thank you some day and feel genuine gratitude.  But they won’t recall a fraction of the daily experiences you’ve given them—the time you cut their sandwiches into heart shapes, the nights you read two extra stories even though you couldn’t keep your eyes open, the day you walked out to get the mail together and noticed the crocuses popping through. Last year, my daughter Marlee sent me this poem on Mother’s Day.  I think you’ll enjoy it.

The Lanyard

By: Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.
No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.
I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.
She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light
and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.
Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth
that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

Nothing will ever make you even.  There is no gift or card or expression of gratitude that will hit the mark—the “thank you, Mom” mark.  But today something happened that came close.  My son—sixteen years old, blessed the sacrament for the first time.  I was sitting so close that I could watch his clean hands break the bread.  I heard his mild voice say the words to the prayer.   In this filthy world, he is worthy.  He honors me with his clean life.  It’s all I want from him.  Our eyes locked for a few moments after he sat down and there weren’t words to frame my love and gratitude—for him, for the Savior’s emblems, for the gospel that guides us together.  No Mother’s Day geranium was needed.

So accept the many silent honors your children bestow upon you each day.  When your 2-year-old shares a toy, when your daughter speaks oh so gently to the baby, when your son picks up all of his cars cheerfully.  Those honors will increase in magnitude as the years unfold and there will be echoes of your efforts even in the lives of your grandchildren.  Your careful acts of love and teaching that seem at times to evaporate into thin air, are actually settling and sinking in and they will all bear fruit in time.

The world honors you today.  I do too.  But in their own unique little ways, each of your children honors you best of all.

With Love,



  1. How I love you Jane. Thank you for your magnificent words that lift me and motivate me in this calling that I love and cherish. Happy Mother's Day! You are a truly amazing mother and I am grateful to know you and have your example in my life! I love reading your words and feeling the connection to you through motherhood and through our commitment to this great and most noble calling. I am so grateful the others can read and have access to your wisdom and parenting ideals. Hopefully we will see you in a couple weeks in Charlottesville!

  2. What a perfect way to close this day!
    Thank you for sharing your wisdom and perspective and love. Your words cloak motherhood with the dignity it truly deserves - dignity that is often difficult to see, day to day, from the trenches =). Thank you. And Happy Mother's Day!

  3. Thank you so much. You have me in tears. This spoke to my heart. I am the mother of a two year old and an a 8 month old and sometimes life can be lonely and discouraging. As I read your post I realized that a lot of what mothers do is similar to what Christ did for us. We can never repay him for his sacrifice, just like we can never repay our mothers for their sacrifice. It helps me to think about it that way-- to know that I am doing something important for my children and that some day they will understand what I've tried to give them.

    Thank you thank you for these beautiful words. Your children are lucky to have such a beautiful woman to mother them. I appreciate your example.

  4. Your words are beautiful. Motherhood needs more advocates in today's world. You are doing a good thing here!

  5. I thought you and your readers might also enjoy this beautifully written tribute to motherhood:

  6. In a way, I think we pay our mothers back a little bit by loving and raising their grandchildren.

  7. I just love this letter! Thank you for this post on my first Mother's Day!


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