In 2015 I organized a national Canadian Mother’s Day writing contest called WOW MOM: Honoring Resilient Mothers. Contestants wrote a tribute to a mom. Five objective readers decided the top winners who were given prizes worth over one thousand dollars. The top eight entries are below.
I hope these tributes inspire you to write a tribute to someone who nurtured you. It might not be your biological mother. Consider this perspective from one of my resiliency mentors, Nan Henderson who wrote, Resiliency in Action:
On this Mother’s Day I want to emphasize (from the resiliency research) that SO many traumatized, abused, and distressed children and youth are helped by the “mothering” they receive from their teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, neighbors, pastors, coaches, counselors, extended family members and others in their life who show them caring, support, and love. True mothering – no matter what the source – heals.”
FIRST: Confessions to my Mother
My mother was 29 years old when the police came to her door at three a.m. to tell her that her husband was in a work-related accident at the factory where he was working the night shift. He suffered serious head trauma and died the next day.
With two young children, she took control of her fate and boldly did what she knew how to do. There was no option. As a woman who had never learned to read or write English she supplemented her meager monthly Workman’s Compensation pension by caring for children during the day and sewing for clients at night; all so that she could be at home to take care of us. She is a proud and dignified woman and never took a hand-out or a dime from anyone. She just figured it out somehow. We never went hungry and were always well-dressed and well-loved.
Like most mother/daughter relationships, we have consistently loved each other and driven each other crazy at the same time. We’ve always worked things out and been there for each other. I have not always told her how much I appreciated her because, quite frankly, I spent too much time being her child while around her. It is time to share some heartfelt sentiments.
I admire your strength. You have had a difficult life and yet remain one of the most resilient people I know.
I admire your love and acceptance. You love everyone for exactly who they are, making extraordinary efforts to make sure your love is felt.
I admire how well you take care of yourself. You know how important it is to stay healthy to maintain your quality of life.
I admire what a wonderful friend you are. You are always there for people with kind words or a listening ear.
I really do want to be just like you. I’m starting to have the same facial expressions as you. Some of my habits are strangely similar to yours. My Christmas cookies will never taste as good as yours and I will admit that I have given my children every piece of advice you have ever given me, even though I rejected it at the time.
You are a wonderful mother and friend. I’m glad you are mine.
I love you.
Helene Oseen, Calgary, Alberta in honor of her mother. Helene is the author of Wear Your Life Well: Lessons on the Journey to your Truest Self: How to design your life, fashion your style and live a life you love.
SECOND: Part of the Garden She Shines Upon
Four years ago, on New Year’s Day, Tracey’s daughter, Cassidy, was in a terrible snowmobile accident. I knew Tracey was strong. She had weathered a few storms in her life but the strength she showed during this time while putting on the face for her family and friends, was beyond what I could imagine anybody doing.
Cassidy had fallen off the back of the snowmobile and was knocked unconscious. She was airlifted to our Children’s Hospital over 210 kilometers away. She never regained consciousness for almost a month. During that time, Tracey did what any mom would do. She sat vigil for her daughter and kept a resolute calm for her husband and son. But she also did the unimaginable; she smiled, she laughed, she did her makeup and her hair, she wore bright colors, she hugged and she stayed true to Cassidy.
Yes, Tracey cried, and she shook. She was shattered and she melted, but when she faced daily visitors, doctors, her parents and sisters, her husband and son, she shone. It was amazing to watch, and I felt sad. It seemed, the wrong way around; we should have held her up! But, that is not Tracey’s way.
Cassidy opened her eyes and spoke, “My nose is itchy”. Slowly, she walked and came back to life. Tracey had waited, and then, she broke. But, like Cassidy, she made a full recovery.
This is the short version of the story. The best part of the story is, Tracey is still Tracey. She is the person who brings a Smoothie to your house when you have a cold; the friend who holds another friend’s hand when their head is being shaved; the competitive team mate; the daughter who is still the sparkle in her parents’ eyes at age 49; the Big sister whose heart knows no bounds; the crazy, embarrassing mom whose two kids who love her zest for life; the wife who holds her husband up when his little girl is laying lifeless in his arms and showers him with love. She is a ray of sunshine and I get to be, like many others, a small part of the garden she shines upon and makes grow.
Sharon Evans, Winnipeg, Manitoba in honor of her friend, Tracey
THIRD: Rosie Endures
How much can one human being endure in a lifetime? It depends on the human being.
I was nineteen when the phone rang and my grandmother said, “So you don’t have a father anymore.” The words tore into my heart like a knife. My dad, Harry, and my mom, Rosie, had just returned home from a vacation. Dad was 55 and died of a heart attack.
Having no father for me, meant Rosie was without a husband, a man she was with for 30 years. It was not a perfect marriage, but they created five children and gave us everything we needed.
Rosie was an attractive woman, outgoing and with a great sense of humor. While she did not focus on worldly issues (The National Enquirer was her primary source of news), she was upbeat and positive. With those attributes, it was not long before she met Hymie, and married him.
Hymie was a funny little man, successful in the army surplus business. With all his quirks and peculiarities, we loved Hymie for 13 years before he dropped dead in his kitchen, also of a heart attack. I remember Rosie sobbing uncontrollably after his death, and saying, “What is it about me that makes my husbands leave me?” By reaching out to family, celebrating Hymie’s life, and staying positive, Rosie moved on.
If burying two husbands wasn’t enough, Rosie went through the worst of all nightmares, losing two of her children while she was still alive. My brother Errol died from leukemia at 44, and my sister Mona crashed alone in her car at 62 years of age. After all that, Rosie was down, but not out. She refused to give up on life.
Now at 98 years of age, Rosie has few of her faculties remaining. Still, every once in a while she gets that glint in her eye cracks a big smile, and a joke or two. How much can one human endure in a lifetime? If you are Rosie, an awful lot.
Herky Cutler, Pincher Creek, Alberta in honor to his mother, Rosie Cutler. Herky is the author of Get F.I.T. Go Far!: 15 Things Leaders Absolutely Must Do to Increase Organizational Performance
Fear rushes through my veins as my phone vibrates beside my computer. What will the principal say this time? Did she slam a door? Did her social deficits cause a fight with a peer? Did she shut herself in her locker again? Is she crying?
Oh. It is only a text. My heart roars in my ears as I recover from my own paranoia. I get up and guzzle a glass of cold water, eat a snack, pour a coffee. Shake off the fear. Dive back into work.
The phone buzzes. My pulse ratchets up. I close my eyes and wait because a notification will silence after two buzzes.
It doesn’t silence. I snatch up the phone, barely identify the school’s number before I swipe the screen.
Her voice is soft. “Hi, Mom.”
Whew. It’s not the principal. I press my hand to my slamming heart. “Hi, honey. What’s up?”
“Um,” she says. I hold my breath. Will I need to pick her up for disruptive behavior? Explain her deficits to a sub again? I eye my keys on the key hook.
“You okay, kiddo?” I prompt her when all I hear for a while is breathing.
“Yeah,” she says. “I dropped my sandwich on the floor and can’t eat it. But I took deep breaths and did not scream.”
I sagged back in my chair with relief. “Oh. Can you ask your teacher for a piece of fruit to hold you over until you get home?”
“I’m not allowed to take other people’s food, Mom.”
This is my black-and-white, concrete-thinking child. A grin edges across my lips. “If a teacher offers you food, it’s not taking from them.”
“Is that okay, then?”
“Yeah, sure. Bye!”
After she hangs up, I stare at my phone. My smile widens, and my heart tingles with pride. She didn’t slam, kick, or throw. She called me instead.
I draw deep, calming breaths. One good day at a time . . . for both of us.
Naomi Davis, Cayley, Alberta in honor of mothers whose children live with disabilities
Am I a Good Mother?
Sometimes we mothers wonder, “Am I a good mother?”
I recently realized my grown daughters are messy. Their shoes and clothes are strewn about their houses. There always seems to be dirty dishes on the counter. Their laundry is rarely all done and put away.
Bemoaning their habits, I declared “I have failed as a mother!” A good friend asked me if my adult children’s neatness is a true measure of my parental success. (Pause) No.
THIS is how I gauge my success as a parent: my children are decent human beings.
They share their meager wealth with their friends and family. They are generous.
I once was walking with my, then, late-teen daughter when the elderly woman in front of us tripped and fell to the ground. My daughter sprang into action and in a blink of the eye, lifted the woman, brushed off her clothes and gathered her spilled groceries. When I commented she replied, “What if that were Grandma?” They are decent.
This spring one daughter’s friend longed to visit her dying mother one last time but could not afford the flights to Ontario. My other daughter had a pass for two flights and gave them to her sister’s friend. They are compassionate.
I once regretted that my daughters came from a broken home. About 15 years ago they told me that they did not consider themselves growing up in a broken home but from a happy home. They are loving.
The mother of my Grandtoys often foregoes housework to ride bikes, play games or sing and dance with her girls. They have priorities.
I love my wise, beautiful daughters. Being their mom has been, bar none, my greatest life experience, my most significant life purpose and my most satisfying accomplishment.
When their father became ill over 30 years ago, I knew my only job was to prepare my children for adulthood, in case they lost me, too. It wasn’t easy but I did my job. My daughters are decent human beings.
I am a good mother!
Shelley Goldbeck, Calgary, Alberta in honor of her own journey. Shelley is a contributor to the books The Magic of Living Nutrition: Food for the body, mind and soul and Meat LESS: A Step-By-Step Guide To Going Vegan
A Conscious Mother
When I first met Deanne (last name), I could never have predicted the profound impact she would have, not only in my life but the lives of many others.
While working on her Master’s thesis in Education, she chose to write a play on LBGTQ awareness in high schools. The protagonist was a young teacher trying to deal with the constraints and issues that teachers now face in modern classrooms in Alberta, such as religious, cultural, and administrative objections and obstacles – all while pregnant!
When her play was performed by a cast of diverse students for Calgary teachers and administrators, several students wrote to Deanne afterward to tell her how much her play had meant to them, and how it had helped them with their own struggles.
These days, Deanne lives the message in her play. She teaches high school English in an overcrowded classroom, tutors part–‐time, and, working with the Calgary Board of Education and the Calgary Sexual Health Centre, advocates for LBGTQ awareness, Gay Straight Alliance education and implementation into the school system.
As a teacher, she recognizes the inequity of behavior towards LBGTQ students and the effect this bullying has upon them, including higher suicide rates. Deanne is an amazing mother, consciously bringing a sense of love, comfort, joy, and empowerment to her own two children, three year old, Josh and 18 months old, Inara, and her husband, Aaron.
She is also a phenomenal friend. I am awed by the way she makes time to help and discuss presentations and writing projects with me, as well as creating a safe space and offering an ear to any issues I may want to explore with her. I am blessed to know her.
My life is unequivocally better for having her in it, and I am by far not the only one who feels so. I think the photo included of her son and husband watching her march in the Gay Pride parade says it all!
Tarra Riley, Calgary, Alberta in honor of her friend, Deanne Barrett
Moms! How Special Are They?
Moms! How special are they,
with all that time spent helping their children grow every day;
A little more we flourish in every way,
because of a Mother’s devotion along the way?
Mentor to not only me but many you would influence in everything you do,
awards, letters of recognition and even the Queen’s medal was given to you;
Outstanding is how everyone always remembered all you did,
to me I was always so proud just to be your kid;
Thankful that you were always there supporting and guiding me,
because I grew up to grow wings that continue to set me free;
Honored you taught me about all in this world I would explore,
believe it or not this insight prepared me to never close a door;
Encouragement by you was fundamental to who your children have become,
you would be so proud, we are also now both like you, a great Mom;
Reminiscence always of the exceptional moments we shared,
Mom your girls are now amazing women because you always cared.
Moms, how special are they, to us you were elite in every way;
A little more you are missed as each new moment goes by,
we’ve dedicated this to you, Mom, it is so hard for us to say goodbye.
Connie Cook, Calgary, Alberta in honor of her mother, Gail Potter-Kok
Best Friend and Super Mom
Not long ago when we met so young, at work and at play we always had fun.
There for one another – had each other’s back, who knew there would be a life-long reason for that?
How amazing our stories came to be, somewhat mirrored and handled with grace, did we.
The illnesses and challenges you overcame, somehow you never viewed as a dark cloud, dear friend, how could I not be proud?
Forthright we met things head on, I am grateful our Mothers prepared us to be strong.
I’ll never forget your call that day, friend, I need you right away.
Suddenly our lives became even more like one another’s, as now we would also share being single Mothers.
Shift, life again all new, alone with baby, feelings, responsibilities, who knew? Both made decisions as Mothers often do, do what it takes, just to get through.
Yesterday, we didn’t have the support they receive today, but you made the best of Motherhood anyway.
You were always a best friend, really more of a Sister, but life threw in another twister.
Motherhood, everyday life, a great man, who would make you his wife.
There came a time as often friendships do, our lives got complex and separated for what seemed like a moment or two.
Our path reconnected, sharing stories, laughing again, the best part for me was seeing through your daughter’s eyes what a great Mom you became.
There’s no app for that, friend, you’ve got Motherhood down pat.
Today’s teenage girls handle more than they should have to bear, because of your loving devotion, your girl knows you’re always there.
A poem dedicated to you – teacher, supporter, adviser to mention a few, equipping your daughter to value the beauty inside, what a great mother are you!
Always my best friend, you know too much we always say, honored am I today. Sharing you’re an amazingly resilient mother, truly, like no other.
Connie Cook, Calgary, Alberta in honor of her friend, Michele Coughlin-Palmer