Posted by: placeofgrace | August 26, 2008

Obituary for a mother

Yesterday I read a very disturbing obituary at Letters from Camp Crusty. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. You see, I don’t have a mother, did not have one for the last 34 years. Since I was very small (5 years old) when she died, and there was the little complication of my step mom getting upset when I referred to my “real mom”, I do not remember much about her. I remember her name (gave it to my oldest child); I remember her eyes, her hair, her hands. I remember how she made me feel. I remember other small details about her, but not enough to build a person from it. I do not know what our relationship would have been like, should she have lived to raise me. I want to believe it would have been good, that it would have survived my teenage years.

I did have a step mother though, we did not have a good relationship, she did not take emotionaly or physically good care of me,  but I cannot say that she ruined my life. We still do not have a close relationship, and currently I view her as only somebody I know; somebody that lives far from me, and who do not give any input in my life. But I do not hate her, and I cannot say that she did not contribute to who I am. 

I have a few friends that have serious relationship issues with their mothers. Mothers who are self-centered and apparently not able to even acknowledge their adult children’s needs for their acceptance. Mothers who cannot cope with the stresses their adult children’s lives place on them. Mothers that cannot release ex-son-in-laws or that cannot accept their children’s choices. Mothers that continually breaks down their children’s self worth, etc. etc. Sometimes, when I listen to the heartache of an adult child whose greatest yearning is for the acceptance and love of his or her mother, I think that maybe it is not so bad not to have a mother (as an adult). But none of my friends hate their mothers. Even as adults the one thing they want is acceptance from their parents.

I also remember a number of cases where children would want to be reunited with their parents, despite any horrible, uncaring or even cruel treatment they received from their parents. One specific situation keep on coming to mind when I think about mother-child relationships: This young mother got pregnant the first time when she was 13 years old. She married the man and had three more children with him. Eventually she killed him with a knife after years of abuse. Her second child came upon the scene immediately after she killed his father. The boy was 9 years old at the time. The mother made a story up about somebody breaking into the house and the father being killed during the struggle, and she told the boy that he should tell it to the police as well. The boy could not withstand the interrogation by the investigating officer and eventually told the truth. The mother was sentenced to house arrest and community service (due to extreme extenuating circumstances). The mother could not take care of her four children and asked that they be placed in a children’s home.

I was only involved with the two oldest boy years after the mother was sentenced. Both boys suffered rejection, but the younger one touched me deeper. He was one of the most attractive teenage boys I ever worked with; he had a soft heart and good manners. Unfortunately he started to present unmanageable behavior shortly after he turned 13 and he could not stay on in the children’s home. Social workers tried to make a successful placement in different institutions, but he always ran away – straight to his mother. She did not want him; she could never forgive him for telling the police about her crime. Despite the fact that she actually did ruin his life, he still yearned for her love and acceptance. I only saw him again when he was 18, we tried to take him into our home and help him to find peace. This was not one of our success stories. It did not matter how much assurances and acceptance we gave him, he kept on going to his mother, she kept on rejecting him, and we had to comfort him. It broke my heart every time. The circle went on and on, until he found a friend with whom he decided to go find work in another town.

In the end, I can only come to the conclusion that the obituary posted in Letters from Camp Crusty, is the outcry of a broken heart. And even if this mother actually did ruin her children’s lives, her own life was ruined as well. Orson Scott Card wrote a book, Speaker for the Dead. The basic principle is that when a person dies, his story should be told, the good and the bad. Understanding should be sought for why he behaved the way he did, how he came to be who he was. I think in the case of Dolores Aguilar the services of Ender would have brought peace to her decedents. I can only hope that her daughters, one of whom placed the obituary, would make peace with her memories.

To all my friends who suffered, and still suffer, under the hands of uncaring mothers, may you receive enough healing.  May you not feel like placing such an obituary about your mothers when the time comes. May you experience enough acceptances from yourself and others, to be able to accept your mother, despite all her shortcomings, to understand where she comes from, to be mature enough to take care of her even if she did not take care of you! I believe you open the door for forgiveness, the moment you decide to do good towards those who hurt you.  By giving undeserved love, something is born within you, that makes it possible to forgive the harm done to you.



  1. Hmm… I understand what you are saying. And I would not post an obituary like this although I understand it. But as to being mature enough to take care of her… she has made taking care of her a lifelong demand that has emotionally crippled me. My only recourse toward healing is to pull away and not help her. Hmm… it would seem that there is still some damage there, as this comment concerning helping her caused feelings of guilt and anxiety and condemnation. I have a ways to go, I guess.

  2. Katherine

    Please do not feel guilty – that is not productive 😉 . Basically I just wanted to say, that by feeding hate for another person, that person only keep on having a hold over you. I think the idea is to at last have enough peace to be able to choose, for yourself, not because you feel guilty, but because you are healed enough to make such a choice. The choice to do something without expecting anything in return (I really mean anything, not a thankyou, not a smile, no acknowledgement, maybe even a compliant or worse) Then I do believe it would add the process, but not before you are ready.

    My experience with my stepmother was that after I decided to do something nice for her (I made her wedding outfit for her third marraige after my father), a warmth towards her, entered into my heart. I did not become fast friends with her, I only see her maybe once a year when she visits my “sister”. But now, I do not spend my days arguing with her inside my head anymore. She just became a person to whom I could be nice , but who does not add or subtract of who I am anymore.

    As you know, unfortunately, becoming your own person after so many years of being manipulated by another, is not something that happens overnight. Especially if that other person was your own mother, who was supposed to take care of you and to lay the foundation of all other healthy relationships in your life. So yes, I think you are still hurting too much to start taking care of your mother. It is impossible to start going around if your wounds are still bleeding!!!

  3. Anette~

    Thank you. You are right. I actually have come to the place where, most of the time, she is not in my head anymore. I talked to her a couple of nights ago, though, and it was a very toxic conversation. Thank you for the grace to give space for healing. So many in the church world are into the ‘hurry up and get over it and walk in love’ mentality and I don’t think they really understand what they are talking about. 😉

    I believe I will get to the place where I can help her without being injured by her. But I am not there yet and that is okay.

  4. Now THAT is mature. Knowing yourself, your vulnerabilities and accepting it is like a “giant leap”!!!

    I’m gong to post later today on a very special piece of grace Father has just given me – in response to the things that my stepmom actually did ruin for me!! I cannot wait to tell all about it, it is like champaigne bubbling inside of me!!!

  5. I look forward to reading… 😉

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