This is one of the most powerful personal reflections I’ve read in a long time. Have your tissue ready.
My mother died the day she turned 55.
This Sunday will be my first Mother’s Day without her, but nearly a year after she died, I still find it impossible to be heartbroken over her passing. As I wrote in her obituary, she suffered from both mental and physical illness for much of her life. However, despite her struggles, she selflessly loved and supported those who meant the most to her. In so many ways, she loved those who society deemed outcast and unloveable, and through her relentless love of others, her relationship with God was readily apparent. While I miss her dearly, it would be selfish of me to wish that she were still alive and suffering rather than at peace.
I suppose that my mother is the single biggest reason that I have devoted much of my career to studying poverty. My mother was what some folks call white trash, and by extension, that made me white trash growing up too. Truth is, she never stood much of a chance of climbing out of the poverty in which she became mired the minute she was born. Her father was an alcoholic and her mother was (and still is) about as wicked a human as I have ever met. Mom and her sister mostly raised themselves, so it’s no wonder they got married and left their abusive home first chance they got. At 16, Mom married an alcoholic who beat her most every day until the night he came home drunk and she rolled him up in the bedsheets and beat the hell out of him with a baseball bat. Not long after, she got pregnant. Her firstborn child died before he was a week old. She named him Dustin David, and his loss laid heavy on her heart for the rest of her life. It was just one piece of a lifetime of heartbreaking burden that took a toll on her mental health.
Not long after Dusty died, she met my father and my conception hastened the bells of Mom’s second wedding. My father is a good man, but they divorced by the time I was out of diapers. After my father, she married a total of five more times, twice to the same man. She had the biggest heart of anyone I have ever known, but picking men was not among her gifts. She told me more than once that she didn’t think she deserved a good man. I was never able to convince her that she deserved a partner who treated her well.