Savor all things in life is among lessons in mother's legacy

May 04, 2008|By KATE COLEMAN

Next Sunday will be my first Mother's Day without my mom. She died last September.

I miss her in a big way, of course, but often it's the little things that hit me hardest.

I've actually caught myself reaching for the telephone when questions come up and she's the only one who would know the answers.

And I remember the Mother's Days I spent with her.

My mother likely never heard of Anna Jarvis, one the creators of Mother's Day, but they would have agreed about a few things.

In 1907, Jarvis gathered friends to commemorate the life of her mother, who had worked to provide nursing care and sanitation during the Civil War. A year later, Jarvis suggested that the Grafton, W.Va., church in which her mother had taught Sunday school, honor her with a Mother's Day celebration.


The governor of West Virginia issued a proclamation in 1910. In 1914, a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress designated the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day, and President Woodrow Wilson approved it.

Mother's Day became too commercialized for Anna Jarvis.

"I wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit," she once said, according to information on, which also reports that she opposed the selling of flowers and the use of greeting cards, "a poor excuse for the letter you are too lazy to write."

My mother likely never heard of Anna Jarvis, but she would have agreed with her about the flowers.

Although she appreciated the flowers I sent when I was brave enough to ignore her "don't-spend-money-on-me" commands, she didn't need such conventions - especially when she believed prices were raised for the May observance.

When my twin sisters and I were little, Mom accepted handpicked bouquets of dandelions - many with too-short stems - as if they were roses. She oohed and aahed over dime-store earrings and tacky knickknacks. Knowing my mom, she sincerely loved them - and the idea of them. She didn't want any fuss or spotlight or need to be part of a national celebration.

It was little things that counted.

Unlike Anna Jarvis, my mom enjoyed greeting cards. By way of my sisters, she sent me one for my birthday a couple of months ago. My siblings have been sorting through everything left in the New Jersey house Mom lived in for more than 50 years. The card was with others in a box under her bed, and, judging by the printed price and the amount of time lapsed since she stopped getting out to shop, it must be several years old.

The artwork is a whimsical painting of a woman at the bathroom mirror, appearing to be applying dye to her hair.

"Feeling old and depressed because it's your birthday?

Well, cheer up - it could be worse!!!

You could be pregnant!

Happy Birthday"

I can almost hear her laughing. For the record, I am way beyond the age of childbearing.

I don't know if my sisters will find a Mother's Day card among my mother's things. It would be fun to see, but I really don't need it.

She's already given me a gift.

This is going to sound really crazy: I've always known I'm not going to live forever, but I never really could get a grip on the fact that I'm going to die someday.

The prospect doesn't frighten or worry me. I just can't picture not being here.

With Mom gone, the awareness of my own mortality has become clear.

Fortunately, I'm OK with that.

It's a good reminder to appreciate and savor life's little things - the dandelions as well as the roses.

Kate Coleman writes a monthly Lifestyle column and covers the Maryland Symphony Orchestra for The Herald-Mail.

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