330 | Mother of a Holiday

May 11, 2014
Sunday, 7:30 p.m.
Letter #330: Mother of a Holiday


Dear Family,

Happy Mother’s Day! If there’s ever a holiday that warms a prisoner’s heart, it’s Mother’s Day. Cards with pirated images of Disney characters and Precious Moments dolls (see: the 1980s) are meticulously crafted by inmates who have no mother to send them to. The buyers, still fat from the last package mom sent, enclose a package request list with the ever-thoughtful “Mom—Happy Mother’s Day. XOXO Love, Duane.”

Mind you, we don’t have a guy who is known as “Duane” here. That’s the name his momma calls him, and he knows he won’t get a package if he puts “Dopey,” “Panda,” “MD” (it doesn’t mean he’s a doctor), “Youngster,” “Bones,” or “Gutter,” to mention just a few of the names guys are known by.

Some moms receive hand-painted flowers made from a mixture of bread, oatmeal, and soap, while other moms get hand-drawn art on a handkerchief. What better way to express your love for mom than to send her a picture of an angel in handcuffs, overlooked by a huge demon face, and all this on an old-fashioned Kleenex covered in ballpoint pen ink? None, I tell you.

My awesome sisters-in-laws, though incredible mothers, received nothing from me this year except for a token mention in my family letter saying they are incredible mothers. I have no Cheerios to paste in the shape of a heart on the back of a Noah’s Ark coloring page. That is what church is for, and their refrigerators are meant for much finer works of art than my limited skills could ever produce.

My own mother is a saint. Not the head-tilted, palms outstretched, carved figure type of saint, but closer to the St. Bernard type that finds you when you’re lost and brings you something warm to revive you. But not alcohol. Each of us, her kids, have needed rescuing at some point in our journey, and she has always been there, making it right. Nowadays, it’s phone calls, letters, text messages, and dropping by for a visit that revives and warms the hearts of the little boys that still need a Mommy sometimes.

Well, I might be living miles away from her, but I still know that what she wants—more than a hug, flowers, or a box of chocolates—is a letter. I may not have the artistic ability to draw angels in odd situations or the money to purchase flowers made from leftovers, but I did take the time to let her know, on paper, how grateful I am for her. Now, I just need to find out if it made her cry. I don’t know when it first started, that tradition, but the effectiveness of a card or gift for my mom is whether or not it makes her cry, measured in initial reactionary burst, multiplied by the strength and duration of the tear flow. On this latest card, I’m fairly confident.

Mother’s Day has been extremely special for both Joe and me. We both got to visit with our moms over the phone. Joe’s mom has gradually been weaned off of the ventilator, but she’s not out of the woods yet, the doctors tell us. We’re praying.

Today, Karen told Joe how much she loves him, and I listened in as Joe spoke Biblical words of comfort and encouragement to her. He told his mom to keep trusting God, to not be discouraged, and to know that God is always with her, no matter what. Joe’s sister, Amanda, has been faithfully by her mom’s side throughout this long medical ordeal, despite her own psychological and emotional difficulties.

Mothers are a gift from God. For those of us blessed enough to still have a mother, we honor her today. For those whose mothers have gone on before us, we remember their input and investment. And for those of you, including my own, who are mothers, thank you for being there at the right moment, just when you are needed most.