Sweet Elegy for Mama

Love. Love. Love.
Love. Love. Love.

“Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. Love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves it’s own mark. To have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever.”  ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

My mother was a goddess. She was my first idol. An ethereal being dropped into a human body she loved me with a real mother’s love. She doted on me, wondered after every cry I did or did not make. I was her first-born child and she would protect me from dangers seen and unseen. As I grew, I still appreciated the attention and concern she lavished upon me and always wanted to do what I could to show my love in return. At Christmas or birthdays I wanted to buy her the biggest and best present a girl-who-would-become-a-woman-still-asking would ask. But what thing could you really buy for a goddess?

“Mama, what do you want for your birthday?”

“All I want is for my children to have good health, and get a good education.”

This would be the only answer she would ever give me all of her life. Foiled and frustrated by the inability to do what I thought could show her how much I cared, I tried on my own to find the just-right gift. As I grew older I stopped asking, but I kept trying to find the right thing.

I felt safe and protected in the nest we called home. When I reached adolescence, I begin to assert my independence as best I could. I remember once struggling to unhook her hand from mine as we set about crossing a large busy street one shopping day. We were off to buy me my first bra. She did not need to hold my hand. I was eleven or twelve then and obviously not a little girl anymore. When would she let up?

I couldn’t wait to get old enough to escape what I perceived as her smothering love.  I fled far and wide. On the day I went to college, my mother bawled as we approached the campus entrance. My father drove mostly quietly, knowing there was little he could say to soothe her except for the occasional, “she’s only going to be 60 miles away.”  I sat quietly in the back seat of the car, uncomfortable and conflicted about my escape to freedom. Unbeknownst to me then was the man I would meet and marry who would help me complete my escape. But I would be wrong about that. While for sure she would see that I was grown and not in need of a mother’s over-concern, it didn’t mean I wouldn’t get it.

Unhappy at my choice to marry before finishing my degree, still she supported me. “The way you start out your marriage is the way it’s going to be” she cautioned me on my wedding day.  “Choose wisely.”My mother was the wisest person I knew. I tucked her advice into my heart. Even though I knew I could never be as beautiful, as intelligent, as talented as she, I counted myself grateful that she loved me and had chosen to be my mom.

Mama was always there, always ready with advice whether I sought it or not. Even after that marriage came and went, I continued to keep my distance.  I moved on and around the country for this or that reason. I made only occasional forays back home.  There was a world for me to see and experience and as far as I was concerned, mama had done her due diligence raising all her children to be people of good character, kindness, compassion and love. I didn’t see my trips home as that necessary given her three other children with whom she could involve herself.

“When you look into your mother’s eyes, you know that is the purest love you can find on this earth.”  ― Mitch Albom, For One More Day

As she aged, I didn’t realize my mother as older. She remained witty, beautiful, wise beyond wise, strong, discerning, and always worthy of respect. She always had mine, even as the complaints of my girlhood rose up within me and demanded an accounting. I blamed her for crippling me, for keeping me unable to see my own worthiness, for hobbling my sisters as well.  She only listened, certain that her loving gestures were misunderstood, perhaps being reminded of her own girlhood. Her face looked sad as she listened, perhaps thinking how much she had endeavored to do for us measured against her own childhood memories. Back then, I did not know.

When a few years ago I looked in the mirror and saw my mother’s face looking back at me, I was taken aback.  How was it that the woman I had tried so hard to avoid all those years, would take up residence in this body? By now I had my own child who was trying his best to please me, as I had tried with my mother so many years ago. At the bottom line I saw that all I wanted for him was to have good health and to get a good education. Material things would never matter. From the seat of my own motherhood, I saw that I had been given the best of the best in my own life. My mother had done everything for me from deep, abiding love. My heart opened wide as I bore my child and my mother took a seat there. I got it, finally. For the first time I really understood. Whatever missteps she had taken, whatever she didn’t know as she raised me, she moved in and from love always, and in all ways.  It is a knowing I get more than ever now.  Though my mama has left her body, all the love remained. Whatever grievances I may have borne against her, despite any anger I had, I always always loved her, too. I worshipped her. She was my first goddess. She taught me that love is the only gift to be given.

She loves me still from the beyond.


9 thoughts on “Sweet Elegy for Mama

  1. Egyirba that was one of the most beautiful pieces you have ever written. You are such a good writer. I am honored to have met Vunies, your mother… she was a wonderful woman and a beautiful spirit. This writing honors her so much. She was a Goddess and I loved her. I miss her but I know she is flying free and singing and she is so proud of you.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I think mothers are destined forever to be misunderstood and unappreciated by their children for that space between childhood and wisdom. For me I found that my mother became incredibly wise the moment I had a child… I began to appreciate all she had been through, all she had suffered, all she had endured.


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