Being a mother, without a mother

What are 5 interesting facts about you?

I personally do not feel that I am interesting, so I turned to my lovely family to help me with this.  After much consideration, the 5 interesting facts about me that they came up with are:

  1. I am married to a wonderful man named Colin who is my soul mate
  2. I have been blessed to be the mother of 2 girls whom I love dearly
  3. I was born and brought up in church and although I took part in many church activities, my spiritual relationship with God began just over 30 years ago
  4. I am an Advanced Nurse Practitioner by profession and hold many other qualifications which are unknown to other people
  5. I am a royalist and have a great interest in history

Have you always wanted to be a mother?

I cannot really say that I always wanted to be a mother, but as a young lady growing up, I dreamt about getting married and the type of marriage I would have. I have also always had a great love for children and just presumed that this would be the natural progression following marriage, but it was a good 10 years before I was blessed with becoming a mother and it was not for the lack of trying. I was taunted on a regular basis by others who also felt that motherhood was the natural progression following marriage but noticed that it was not happening. This made me feel like Hannah in the bible being mocked by Peninnah which was distressing at times. I guess the maternal instincts have always been there and working at the Manchester Children’s Hospital for 13 years allowed me to gain a vast experience in caring for children and seeing many mothers, mother in different ways.

What did your mother mean to you?

It is coincidental that I am being asked this question at this time, as this week marks 37 years since my mother died. It absolutely amazes me how my mother has been dead for nearly twice the number of years that she was in my life, but the impact she had on me will be lifelong. I did not realise it at the time, but she was my best friend. She was so selfless and other than Jesus who gave his life for the world, she was the most generous person I have ever known. She worked really hard and made many sacrifices to ensure all her children had a better childhood than she had. I tested her patience at times, but her love was unconditional and as a disciplinarian, it was always done in love. She was very playful, and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing her stories of being a young girl back in Jamaica, of going to school and how close she was to her grandmother who raised her. She taught me many things, but in particular, how to cook, keep my home clean, crocheting and how to look after my husband.

Is there anything you wished you could have asked your mother?

When growing up, I took it for granted that my mother was always there for me and as far as I was concerned, she was always going to be there. Things obviously did not work out that way and since losing her, there have been many days that I have wished that I could converse with her again.  Many unanswered questions have plagued my mind at times, but if I had the opportunity to ask her one question it would be: ‘Are you proud of me and how I turned out?’

What have you struggled with the most being a mother?

As a mother, I strive to do the best I can for my family. My husband refers to me as the backbone of the family and I am acutely aware that if I am unable to function, be it due to ill health for example, I struggle with the fact that my family will be affected in some way. However, my main struggle as a mother, is knowing whether I am doing a good job. Am I teaching my children the most important things in life? When they become adults, will they make the right choices? Will they endeavour to develop their own personal relationship with God? Am I a good example? I am sure I am not the only mother that feels this way, but I was hugely encouraged by my eldest daughter who told me on Mother’s Day that,

You are the most hard working, caring and honest woman I have ever met.  It is an honour to be your daughter and if I turn out to be half the mother that you are, I would even be happy with that, because your love goes beyond measure” (her own words).

How have you been able to be an effective mother knowing you haven’t had that support and guidance from your own mum?

Being an effective mother is not something that I stop and consider myself as being. I think it would be fair to say that when I became a mother, I had my own set of beliefs or expectations on what it meant to be a good mother. However, over the years, I find myself drawing on my own mother’s example and remembering the way she would behave in certain circumstances, copying the same behaviour, which appears to work. I also watch other women whom I respect as good mothers and observe the way they raise or have raised their children.

I am in no way, shape or form a perfect mother, but some of the things I try my best to do is to:

  • Teach my girls how to love the Lord
  • Teach my girls how to live life to the fullest
  • Be there for my girls when they need me
  • Teach the importance of self-worth
  • Make time to have fun and laugh
  • Provide food, shelter and love
  • Be a good example

At what age did you lose your mum and how did that impact you?

I lost my mum at the age of 19 years and it has been to date, the most difficult time I have experienced emotionally. I was aware or informed that my mother was terminally ill, but as far as I was concerned at the age of 19, my mother was invincible and would live forever. The day she took her last breath, changed my life completely.

I did not realise it at the time, but when I look back now, it is as if my life was happily heading north in direction and then all of a sudden, I found myself heading south. I refer to it as my life being literally turned upside down. The grief felt at that time has changed me as a person and nothing has ever been the same since. No words can describe the pain I felt.  My only way of describing it was ‘heartache’. I really felt that my heart was hurting. There are certain decisions I made in the early years following my mother’s death that I look back on now and know that if my mother were still alive, these decisions would not have been made. Some were good, but many not so good. One of the major decisions I made, was to move to Manchester where I then lived for 27 years. Everyone around me at the time of moving, thought that I had gone mad, but in hind sight, I believe that in spite of everything that I was going through at that time, the Lord had a plan for my life. Had I not moved to Manchester, I would not have met my husband and the story of my life would be so different.

What would you say to those who may have lost their mum and do not have that support?

Losing a good mother is life changing. It takes time to accept the fact that this special person who has been a constant in your life, is no longer around and cannot be called on whenever you need them. Be careful not to make crucial decisions without talking it through with someone you whole heartedly trust. Do not rush into anything that you feel will make you feel better, as nine times out of ten, it will not. Find someone that you can talk to about how you are feeling. Take time to grieve and if you need to cry, then cry. Do not let anyone make you feel guilty for grieving. You never ‘get over’ the death of your mother, but time does heal, and you learn to come to terms with it, moving on in life with each day that comes. However, even after 37 years, I still get bad days when her death is very poignant. I miss her terribly.  I wish she could have seen me get married and meet her granddaughters, but her legacy lives on in me and I am passing that heritage on to my children.

Did you find motherly support from any other women in your life?

After making a few mistakes in my life, I decided to ask the Lord to provide a husband for me. I trusted God and was confident that he would provide the type of man that I needed. What I did not expect, was that as well as providing a wonderful husband, the Lord was going to provide another person in my life that would be like a mother to me.

When I first met my mother-in-law, I deliberately avoided getting too close to her as I was afraid of losing someone else who would be like a mother to me.

Nevertheless, I soon gave in and can honestly say that after 25 years of marriage, she remains a mother to me in every sense of the word.  I have also been encouraged by many godly mothers to whom I am eternally grateful, as they have helped to shape the person I am today.

How do you lean on the word of God even today?

I remember some years ago, attending the homegoing service of one of the godly mothers I grew up knowing so well. After hearing how her children, family and friends spoke of her at the service, I was again inspired to follow her example as she was so much like my own mother. I try my best to model my life on Proverbs 31, as the virtues practiced by the woman described in this chapter, is aimed at making the life of my husband better, teaching my children well and serving God. I want to be faithful to God, a positive influence, care about the health of my family, a hard worker, trustworthy, wise, a good planner, a manager and basically a loving mother.

How would you encourage someone else who is in a similar situation to you?

I remember having a conversation with my mother around the age of 14 years and expressed to her how I wanted to be the first person in our family to die as I didn’t feel I would be able to cope if anything ever happened to her. She advised me that if she could come to terms with the death of her grand mother who brought her up, then anyone would be able to do the same. I did not understand this properly at the time, but I certainly do now. Thank God, time is a great healer. I would encourage anyone in a similar situation to be careful in the decisions they make when experiencing loss or grief. I would advise as King Solomon did in Proverbs 3: 5-6 to

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.’

No man is an island, especially when grieving. You need good people around you to help you through. Someone who will tell you the truth – the good, the bad and the ugly regardless, but be there for you at the same time.

A mother’s love can never be replaced. I am so grateful for the mother the Lord allowed me to have for 19 years of my life. Her love, beauty and so many other outstanding qualities will never be forgotten.

Val Orr (Wolverhampton, UK)

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