FMM 1 27 2023 Three days, three mothers

 Let us now praise unfamous women, And our mothers that begat us. (Adapted from Ecclesiasticus 44:1).

It may sound strange, but I find much to appreciate in a funeral.  I have often learned more about the person who died at the celebration of their life, than I knew of them when alive.  It so happens that last week I attended the funerals of two Jamaican women; one on Friday, one on Saturday.

The women were both strong who had lived long lives, given birth to many children, and left behind a host of beautiful (or handsome), successful, children and grandchildren, and in one case, a sprinkling of greatgrands.  With more than nine decades of life behind both of them, there was plenty of joy to mix with the sadness along with an abundance of stories.

I was struck by the similarities of their lives.  Both were born in Clarendon, Jamaica.  Both had emigrated to the US in their fifties, and started a new life.  Both had turned to a career in healthcare and caring for others.  Both had left a huge impact on their grandchildren who brought laughter and stories to the tributes.  One had roots in China (stirred up in the Jamaican cookpot), the other in Africa.  Both had lived with dignity and pride, instilling their values in their family. 

In one case, the grandchildren remembered their grandmother’s no-nonsense attitude, as she captured their gaming equipment when she felt they were spending too much time on the foolishness.  But they also remembered her cooking (the best fried chicken ever!), and the fact that before any of her kids or grandchildren left after visiting her, she always pushed a $20 bill into their hand, no matter how old she was, or how successful they were. The other grandmother was also known for her generosity, and she also did not put up with foolishness. And at the end of every day, she prayed for each and every one of her children, grandchildren and greatgrandchildren by name, and included any special needs they had.  And the tally was high! Something like eight children, thirty seven grandchildren, and a few greatgrands. 

Of course, in the tradition of all good Jamaican funerals, both were followed by a repast full of good Jamaican food, drink, laughter, and plenty of Jamaican music.

I have seen so many memes and quotes talking about strong women, as if strong women are unusual.  But I have known more strong women than weak women in my life.  Is it because we often have no other choice than to be strong? Eleanor Roosevelt famously said ‘A woman is like a tea bag, you never know how strong it is until it is in hot water’.  When you are tasked with giving birth, raising children and making sure they grow up healthy, strong and making smart choices, you have to do it with or without the men in your life.  And along the way you gain much wisdom, and find it possible to survive all manner of tragedies and challenges.

What is remarkable about the mothers I met last weekend, is that they are unremarkable.  I have no doubt I could hear similar stories at any number of funerals.  Women who took what they were given and parlayed it into a legacy.  Who changed course mid-life, picked up and went to a foreign land and created a warm and loving home that absorbed not only their own family, but friends of friends and whoever needed a meal, or a bed, or a hug.  Although, as one son remembered, hugs and kisses only became a thing after his mother moved to the US.  Jamaican mothers showed love in less demonstrative ways (not only Jamaican mothers, my English parents only learned to hug in later years). 

My third mother I visited on the third day.  A trip out to the rural parts of Florida allowed me to commune with Mother Nature.  The birds were out as we drove over Alligator Alley (no alligators though).  Egrets, osprey, ibis, hawks, anhinga, they were hanging out in the trees, or soaring on high.  Like the mothers of my story, our own Mother Nature can be loving and generous, or no-nonsense and unforgiving when we are not living right with the land.  Like the mothers in my story, she copes with everything that life throws at her.  When you read about biodiversity, you learn that what is needed for a healthy planet is a diverse mix of all of the species of plants and living things. It is said that humans are the only species that, if we disappeared off the face of the earth, the earth would actually flourish without us.  All other species would leave the planet worse off.

This Friday morning I hope you have loving memories of the strong women in your life, or if they are still showing you how to live well, with style, flair, love and generosity, I hope you can give them a big hug.  We may think we can never live up to the standards that they set, but I am sure that in our own way, we are leaving an imprint on our children and grandchildren, our nephews and nieces. And to the men in our lives, thank you for being willing to stand beside strong women without feeling diminished.

Have a wonderful weekend, Family!

One Love!


One comment

  1. Wonderful, thank you for this! I absolutely hate funerals though – and avoid them. Especially Jamaican funerals, which go on way too long. But yes, there are so many strong women whom I admire deeply – so many Jamaican women! Mother Nature is the best of all…

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