Don Follis | All moms need grace in the moment

Don Follis | All moms need grace in the moment

My mother was not different from the other mothers in our Northwestern Kansas town in the late 1950s and early 1960s. She was not different from mothers across the country. She had one child after another, four of her five kids in less than seven years. I was number two, the first of three boys. I am 14 months younger than my first-born sister.

Now in her mid-80s, last week mom called me from my sister's home in Wichita, Kan., where she lives. She told me that for Mother's Day she would rather have candy than flowers. Mom never met a piece of candy she didn't like. Like mother, like son.

Mom then invited me for dinner this Sunday and said she would make me a coconut cream pie and coffee. Her parents have been gone for decades and my dad for nearly 10 years, but she said they were all coming to celebrate Mother's Day, and she was getting everything ready.

This week I read a piece by writer Mikkee Hall, a 41-year-old single woman who said, "I've lived all around the U.S. and traveled the world. I was 'Mama Mikkee' to groups of interns navigating the wilds of D.C. I spent five years living in a basement and loving my godchildren. I've taught Sunday School children and mentored pre-teens. I've rocked babies and blew bubbles for toddlers. But no matter how my one beautiful life has turned out, I still ache for what I don't have. And this one Sunday a year, it feels like a slap in the face. Honestly, it is the hardest day for me to go to church. Because Mother's Day somewhere along the way went from the sappy Hallmark and Folger's commercials to a dull, painful yearning."

She is not alone, sad to say. Special days like Mother's Day are loaded with emotions for lots of women. Some have lost their mom. Others are estranged. One woman I know wants her mom to be something she never will, and she is not the daughter her mom thought she would be. Family dynamics. Oh boy.

Deep down, all people, certainly the mothers I know best, really just want to be loved and remembered with the words, "I love you." No mother ever asked to come stumbling into motherhood with all her baggage, all her bad coping mechanisms and all the triggers that set her off.

No mom is perfect, even though Proverbs 31 will be read in lots of churches today extolling wives, mothers and daughters: "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all." My own mom worked hard, loved her five kids and did her best, but she was harder on my sisters than she was on my brothers and me. I never quite fully figured out that dynamic, which still affects my sisters.

My mom now lives with one of my sisters, a true angel. On judgment day, that sister will be standing directly behind Mother Teresa. I have rewritten the verse from Proverbs 31 to say, "Many sisters do noble things, but you surpass them all." My sister cares for my mom tirelessly. A mom of two adult children of her own, my sister is kind, patient, generous, humble and understanding toward my mom. She keeps all mom's countless medicines organized and takes her to two or three doctor's appointments every week, or so it seems. That sweet sister treats my mom better than she treats herself. I am amazed, completely undone.

Last week, my sister, always self-effacing, said she merely prays for enough grace for each moment. "Moment by moment," she said. "That's all I can do." It suddenly hit me that grace in the moment is what leads to a momentous life for my mom.

Don Follis has pastored in Champaign-Urbana for 35 years. He directs retreats and coaches leaders via Contact him at, and you can follow him on Twitter (@donfollis).

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