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Published May 17 2013

Living Faith: Mother as widow changes daughter's focus

Mother’s Day was different this year.

The burnt toast, sloppy bowl of oatmeal and lukewarm coffee never arrived. Pictures of stick characters with word bubbles of “I love you, Mom” didn’t appear. No crumpled dandelions were offered.

Our kids are growing, and with that, changing the ways they show us love. Though they did come through as the day wore on in ways that deeply touched me, it wasn’t the same.

But my feelings about the day had less to do with their actions and more to do with what I’m experiencing internally regarding a permanent shift in our lives.

This year, for the first time, my mother spent Mother’s Day as a widow.

For me, this change has come with feelings of heightened responsibility and a sense of inadequacy. There’s no manual on how to become a daughter of a husbandless mother, after all.

Through the years, Mom has been bandage applier, tear receiver, maternal modeler and sacrificial giver. She’s offered love unconditionally, and now it’s her daughters’ turn to give.

I’m still processing this new reality and what it will mean for me.

Even as my father slowed and stayed closer to home, Mom kept busy in the world. Yet each night she’d returned from her various activities, ending the day with her best friend and starting the next with the same.

Undoubtedly, it’s the small things she misses most – quiet discussions over what to eat, which channel to watch and which church service to attend.

For the first time, Mom’s on her own, and neither my sister nor I can adequately fill the gap.

Thankfully, God reveals his tender heart for the widowed, and I find some solace in that, as well as appreciation for his wise and gentle admonition.

In 1 Timothy 5:4 of Scripture, we read that God is pleased when children and grandchildren tend to widowed family members, repaying them for all they’ve done. A few verses later, we’re reminded that those “who do not take care of their relatives … have denied the faith and are worse than an unbeliever.”

There’s no wiggle room here. We’re obligated to respond.

More and more, my sister and I must step up to the plate and be there for our mother. Certainly, others will help fill the void, too, but in the end, we’ll be it.

Mom gave us the treasured gift of life and plenty of love through the years. Perhaps most of all, she cared for others beyond our family, teaching us that the best way to live is through giving.

At least one of my kids seems to have noticed this in me. Among the cards and candies sprinkled on the dining room table at our Mother’s Day lunch last weekend, a hand-written note emerged from the daughter most bothered by how messy our household becomes in busy times.

Tucked into a full letter of heartfelt words, she said, “Please know that you are an amazing mom. I’d much rather have you be here for me emotionally than at home cooking and cleaning all of the time.”

Tears came as I read that, first through knowing she’d noticed but also feeling the blessing of seeing my mother’s influence in my own mothering.

With my father’s death came more change than I’d anticipated, including the new worry of a mother moving through life without her other half.

It will take a while to settle into this new picture, but I’ll joyfully help carry the burden in order to repay even in small part the love and life Mom has poured into me.

This column was written exclusively for The Forum.

Roxane B. Salonen is a freelance writer who lives in Fargo with her husband and five children. If you have a story of faith to share with her, email roxanebsalonen@gmail.com.