Sunday, March 22, 2015

A mom's love remembered - Leah St. James

She stood in the storm
and when the wind did not blow her way,
she adjusted her sails. ~ Elizabeth Edwards

Yesterday (March21) was my mother’s birthday – or would have been if she were alive. She died in 1996, officially from heart failure. The irony is that her heart was the strongest of her organs, giving way only after emphysema (and years of inhaling tars and nicotines) stole her ability to breathe easily. While her lungs sputtered and struggled to say “Enough,” her heart chanted, “Not yet, not yet, not yet, not yet.”

But that was Mom, always ready to fight for what she wanted, no matter how poor her odds. The funny thing was, she never thought of her battles as...battles. It was just life. In her world, you worked hard—as hard as you could—and if (when) you hit roadblocks, you navigated around them.

When deserted by her husband (my father) with two young daughters to care for, she moved back with her mother, got a job and joined a church where we found new friends (and a new support system).

When her mother died, she converted the upstairs of our three-bedroom colonial into a small apartment (which she rented out...probably quite illegally) and turned the dining room downstairs into a bedroom with a couple hide-a-beds for her little family. To supplement her food budget, she started bringing home leftovers from the diner where she worked. I think we had pasta fagioli every night for six months. I can still taste it. (Ugh.)

When the diner closed, she went into town and started knocking on doors to find a job. She joined the housekeeping staff of a high-rise senior complex, then later became a companion to one of the residents.

As you might imagine, money was in pretty short supply in our home. But Mom worked magic with what she had. She took out an “installment loan” to buy our first color television and paid it off a couple bucks a week. (This was before we all walked around with wallets stuffed with various credit cards.) For Christmas she opened a tiny Christmas club and used lay-away. To give my sister and me fun over the summer, she scraped pennies together every week for a year to rent us a locker at the local beach club.  

Through it all, she routinely sacrificed her wants to give to us. But Mom never complained about what she didn’t have. Instead she gave thanks for the blessings she had.

Mom with my older son ~ 1988. I love the expression on her face.
And that was my mom’s greatest strength:  her heart for her family and for others, her will to make the most of the life she was given. 

I wish I’d fully appreciated my mom for these strengths when I was young, before she died. But I try to honor her memory by coping through difficulties, and by working, hard, for my dreams, even if I have to take baby steps.

Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil and the redeeming power of love.

You can find her Facebook, chatting with readers on Fiction Fanatics Feud. Learn more about Leah and her writing at LeahStJames.com


Alicia Dean said...

Oh my gosh, so beautiful. Made me cry. You were indeed raised by a very special lady. I can see where you get many of your wonderful qualities. What an adorable pic...yes, her expression is priceless! Hugs...

Jannine Gallant said...

What a lovely tribute. Sounds like your mom was a special, giving woman!

Betsy Ashton said...

Leah, we must be kindred sisters. Your mother's story is an echo of mine. You brought tears to my eyes and a smile in my heart. Well done, dear sister.

Leah St. James said...

Thank you, Alicia, for the kind words and the hugs. :-) We didn't have a father growing up, but my mom loved us enough for two. I couldn't have asked for more.

Leah St. James said...

Jannine, she was. Thank you. Like I said though, I didn't realize just how special until I had my own children and saw how tough it was raising kids WITH a supportive husband.

Leah St. James said...

Betsy, thank you for letting me know! I'm so glad my mom's story touched you. :-)

Margo Hoornstra said...

Leah. What a wonderful life your mother gave you. It's not the money, it's the loved ones in our lives. I love her expression too. Kind of says it all.

Leah St. James said...

Thanks, Margo. My sister and I feel we were so much "richer" than others, despite being pretty broke most of our growing years.. :-)

Diane Burton said...

Isn't it amazing the sacrifices our mothers made. They were resilient ladies.