“Out of wounded earth, flowers come, pushing through the dirt.”
from Wholly Yours by the David Crowder Band
Those words stick in my head long after the song has ended, nagging at me to give them a voice. I know they speak of my mother, who had a beautiful spirit in spite of the difficulties she faced in her life.
She was born in 1935 in Alamogordo, New Mexico, the fourth child, third daughter, of a rancher and a homemaker. Eventually, the number of children would grow to seven. She was right in the middle: middle child, middle of the five daughters. The family struggled to make ends meet all of her childhood. She used to tell stories about her early years in Alamogordo, which is a mountainous area, and therefore gets quite a bit of snowfall each year. She spoke of sleeping in a bed together with all of her sisters crowded together for warmth. She recalled waking up shivering one morning feeling as if a huge weight was crushing her. When she opened her eyes, she realized that the weight she was feeling was a large drift of snow that had fallen through a hole in the roof down onto the kids huddled under the quilts below! I remember hearing her say once (whether jokingly or not, I’m not sure) that they weren’t even very upset when one of them wet the bed at night, because at least it made a warm spot! She grew up with little money, nothing in the way of luxuries, and lots of hard work. Yet she shone with good nature and hopefulness. To this day, her brothers and sisters will say that she is their favorite sister, the heart of the family.
Eventually, she met and married my father, and they produced two daughters, my sister and me. Suffice it to say, she was more committed to the marriage than he was. I think it might be fair to describe my father as “hard to love”. For many years, after working a full day outside the home, my mother cleaned the house, did laundry, and made dinner for my father. He seldom came home to eat until it had grown cold and she had sent us to bed. He was seldom around to engage in father-daughter activities with us, so she filled the gap with a warm smile and vast enthusiasm. When their marriage finally ended in divorce, she was devastated. In spite of all the emotional pain she had been through, she still loved him and wanted the marriage to work. As a single parent, she raised us with patience and understanding. Her wisdom and generosity as a parent I could never hope to achieve, although I hoped I would.
Years later, she began to have severe back pain. She endured several very painful back surgeries, which never quite solved the problem. She was diagnosed with degenerative disk disease. For many years, every day was full of pain, yet it was difficult to tell when you were with her. She continued to smile and laugh and enjoy life. Eventually, when she was in her early forties, she could no longer go to work every day. Most of her days were spent in her recliner, but when she could, she got out and about; she was not a person made for solitude. Even when she was disabled, she still enriched the lives of her family and her many friends with her sense of humor, her ready smile, her generosity of spirit.
In late December, 1986, my mother and I attended a Christmas celebration with her extended family. As we were driving home late that afternoon, she told me that if she had her life to live over again, she would not change anything. I was aghast. “What about all the heartache and the pain you have been through?” I asked. She smiled and said, “Without all of the pieces of my life, the good and the bad, I would not be the person I am today. I kind of like who I am.” I said something about liking her, too, and wishing I could be as content with my life as she was with hers. I’m smiling as I write this now, remembering that conversation. I am grateful to have had that time with her, because there would not be very many more conversations between us. She died at the age of 50, just a few weeks later. I miss her every day.
Now I have given the words a voice: my mother was a beautiful flower that had the strength of spirit to push through the wounded earth in which it was planted.