When I was defrocking my mother’s home this past weekend, I came across some plaques that some of us had given her. Ever practical, I thought that some of these plaques honoring mother or father might be reused by some Goodwill shopper. I had gathered a few of them together to dust when I happened to notice a message handwritten across the back of one. The front said a simple “There is no friend like Mother and no Mother quite like you,” but the back words were much more specific and personal in their expression of love:
I think I’ve needed a mom more this year than any other. Thank you for being there for me. Thank you for knowing the right words to say—and for knowing when to listen, listen, listen. (I talked a lot this year.) Thank you for your comfort—your hugs, back rubs and snuggles. For your open arms—figuratively and literally. (Thank you, Ma Bell, for “the next best thing to being there” since I could never be with my mom even close to enough times!) Thanks for hearing out my sobs and sending hugs through the phone. Thanks for wanting me in Sarasota but letting me stay in Gainesville. And thank you ever so much for your prayers—especially in the times when I couldn’t pray for myself. I think everyone who didn’t have you for a mom is really missing something! Thank you for being such a good mom—and a good friend!
My first husband died October 21, 1991. My mother’s love and comfort helped fill the hole his loss left in my heart—and allowed me the freedom to grieve. Needless to say, I did not gift that plaque to Goodwill. I stored it in my box of treasures from my mother, and when I got home, I grabbed several pictures from my wall to read the messages I knew would be scribbled there, some from friends, most from my mother.
The first was was from the year I turned 17. My mother embroidered a picture of a sweet girl (presumably me, of course!). On the back she scrawled this message:
To a very special Daughter who is a special friend. Sorry this is so late. God bless! We love you much, M & D
Then the night before I married my first love, my mother handed me a small package with a plaque that read “a little girl is a touch of God’s love,” and my mother continued the message on the back:
—and you have been that all your life. We give you to Bill, knowing his love takes over, and grows even deeper in a different way. You are still our little girl. We love you!
Love, Mom and Dad
My matron of honor, Pamela, whom I lovingly call Wamela, painted a frame and Scripture verse for my first home. I considered—and consider still—Pamela to be my “sunshine friend,” for she always is bright and cheery and full of life and encouragement. The front of her framed gift read, “As you have received Christ, so walk in union with & conformity to Him” (Col. 2:6). The back words warm my heart:
To my very special & neato friend … thanks for all the hugs, laughs, & tears we shared together! ‘Happy New Home!’
Mucho love, Pamela (Wamela)
When that first “happy new home” was emptied after the death of Bill, my friend Judy and her husband Ben (and their children) gave me a home away from home. Every Tuesday night, I went to their house after work and enjoyed dinner and family time. Theirs was a friendship like no other. Judy stitched a beautiful print for me, and on the back side of the frame imprinted these words:
To my sister in Christ, my special friend Sara, the heart friend that I prayed for. May God’s grace and peace continue to be multiplied in you.
I love you, Judy
And, finally, the last picture with back words that I remember receiving. It was a print of a little girl feeding flowers to a cow (much like a young me on the farm that made me fall in love with the country); it had Romans 8:28 printed beneath it: “All things work together for good to them that love God…” My mother gave that print to me in 1993, a year before I met my second dear husband, likely while I was still making sense of God’s plan for my life. In the loving back words, my mother recorded some memories of my childhood, laced with reminders of His faithfulness and ability to make sense of it all:
Sara Jane—she maybe? A little girl time that was special for all of us. You and Trish, blond heads bobbing across the fields with Steve, to feed the hog. Remember Momma Dog and Scott’s chickens and the burning shed and selling Girl Scout cookies? It was a no-money, trust God time, filled with love and laughter, fun and friends, a simpler time. It was and is part of the tapestry woven by our loving Lord, rich with His bold strokes of life that accent ours. I could not help but think of you when I saw this—a precious moment of memory. May there be many, many more for you.
Love, Mom and Dad, 1993
Her words captured our short time on Tatum Ridge Road, a 25-acre farm we rented for but a brief time, but allowed us to bottle feed day-old calves, hatch chickens, fatten a pig, produce a garden, watch the birth of a cow, make close friends of our neighbors (Steve, mentioned above, named calves after my sister and I, Tricia Lynsky and Sara Janesky; he was Polish.) My brother’s hatching of chickens proved fruitless, as it burned down what I considered a barn—but not before I was able to get some straw for a prop for the school play the next day. We captured running horses in our yard, sold Girl Scout cookies at the local orange grove, and befriended a stray mama dog and her nine puppies—only to find she’d adopted us in the night, carefully carrying each puppy a distance of a half mile to our house in the middle of the night.
These memories are precious to me, in part because the person who captured them in ink back words is losing so much of her memory—and I know how precious they were to her, too.
How precious are all of these these back words to me! They capture a hint of the person who wrote them, a dynamic of a specific time in my life. Precious people, precious words. Each framed print is special in its own right and holds a cherished place on a wall in my house, but each is but a reminder of the loving thoughts behind them.
Loving back words.