May 10, 2019

Readers’ stories reflect angels, life lessons, and mothers’ examples of unwavering love

Amy Laddbush examines the artwork crafted by one of her 11 children on March 6 in her Bowie, Md., home. Mother’s Day is on May 12. (CNS photo/Chaz Muth)

Amy Laddbush examines the artwork crafted by one of her 11 children on March 6 in her Bowie, Md., home. Mother’s Day is on May 12. (CNS photo/Chaz Muth)

(Editor’s note: In anticipation of Mother’s Day on May 12, The Criterion invited readers to share their thoughts and stories of how their mothers have lived their faith and shared their faith with their children. Here are some of our readers’ favorite memories of their moms.)
 

Second of two parts | Part one

By John Shaughnessy

The earliest memory that Felicia Clark recalls from her life involves a nightmarish moment and an angel’s warning.

“I woke up in my toddler bed to a room full of dark smoke, my mother stretching her arms towards me, lifting me up and clutching me to her chest,” recalls Clark, a member of Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Beech Grove.

“In her arms, bobbing up and down from her frantic racing from my room to the floor below, I saw my stepfather in his pajamas bolt into my room. He tossed the burning humidifier into the snow below as my mother wrapped me in a throw blanket and held me. I saw her save my life that night, but she told me that it was really an angel who had saved me.

“As she tells it, she was in a dead sleep in the master bedroom when an angel came to her in a dream. ‘What did the angel look like?’ I asked years later, skeptical. ‘I can’t explain that. But it was an angel. I just knew.’ ‘Well what did it say?’ I asked. ‘Your daughter is in trouble, and you need to wake up to save her,’ she explained.”

Clark says that moment was just one example of her mother’s strong faith.

“She is the strongest person I know, full of grace even in the face of hardship. When I was in elementary school, I was one of the few children without a father in my class. She and my stepfather had divorced years earlier, and I had been curious about where my biological father was. I learned that she had been a teenage runaway when she became pregnant with me.

“I felt very guilty because I thought of how I must have been the reason she didn’t graduate high school and had to work two jobs just to put food on the table. I remember I asked her why she didn’t just have an abortion, and if she ever thought her life would have been better if she had.

‘You were the greatest gift God gave me. He had a plan for me. You saved my life. Abortion never crossed my mind,’ she told me. ‘I wouldn’t change a single thing because now I have you.’ ”

Her mother’s unfailing love has guided her life and her relationships, Clark notes.

“I did not have a father at home, but I believe God made that plan for our family for a reason. I am no longer angry, and I have recently reconnected with my father and forgave him for not being around.

“I believe my mother taught me that there is strength in forgiveness. Now I have my own daughter, and I try my best to instill the same strong Christian values my own mother put in me. Some days are harder than others, but my mother taught me to have faith—and to listen to the angels.”

A mother’s best lesson in love

As a teacher, Sue Levell knows the importance of passing along knowledge from one generation to the next. The Martinsville woman says she learned her greatest lessons from her mother.

“I learned to read from hearing my mother read the Bible to my brothers, and I therefore read before I began school,” Levell says. “I learned by heart that ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son’ (Jn 3:16).

“In my heart, I know God is love and God is truth. Thank you, Mama.”

A love letter to Mom

She came across the letter recently, a letter she had written to her mother when she was a freshman in college nearly 60 years ago.

“My mother has been gone for 27 years, and I would express the same sentiments today if only I had the chance,” notes Mary Steinberger Mohr of St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis. “The fact that she had saved the letter for 30 years is a testament to our mutual love and respect.”

Here is a slightly edited version of the letter that Mohr wrote on Feb. 13, 1961.

“Dear Mother,

“Instead of a Valentine card, I want to express my feelings in my own words. I think my love for you must have begun long before I was born for I can’t remember when it didn’t exist. It has since grown and been cultivated into one of the most wonderful things this world has to offer.

“Love is a strange thing. Although it is God’s most wonderful gift, it can be the cruelest thing imaginable. How true are the words, ‘We always hurt the one we love.’ Your love has always sheltered me from the brashness of the world, all the while being careful to warn me realistically of the dangers that could await me as I ventured into the real world.

“I love you for the many nights you walked the floor with me so I could breathe; for the comfortable home I have always had no matter how great a sacrifice it demanded from you; for the Catholic education which I know was very expensive; for the many Christmases and birthdays filled with joy.

“Yes, I love you for all these things, but most of all, I love you for the understanding way in which you always listened to my problems, no matter how trivial, and helped me to solve them. 

“The most wonderful thing you have done for me is to instill in me a deep love for God and a strong faith in him. I hope I will carry to my deathbed the principles of morality which you have taught me and your beautiful interpretation of sex—a word which has come to be associated with so much that is disgusting and degrading in this world and is so frequently misused. Amidst all the repulsive talk of sex, I can still see the beauty of it when used as God intended.

“Without the Christian training received from you, this world would often seem void of any good, and life would have no meaning.

“I realize that often I have gone against your wishes and returned sorrow for your love. I hope you will forgive me and I feel that you already have, for your love has always been a love of complete sacrifice and giving of self. I hope I can repay you for your undying love, but right now all I have to offer is my sincere love in return.

“Love always,

Mary”

A truck-driving mom’s road to faith

Mary Sommer admits that her favorite memories of her mother don’t include the Sunday mornings when her mom drove the family to Mass in a coal truck.

“It was a little embarrassing at that time, since most people had cars, before pick-ups became an item,” notes Sommer, a member of St. Augustine Parish in Leopold, about the truck that her father drove for his work.

Still, Sommer has nothing but pride for the way her mother embraced and lived her faith.

“She was raised of a strong Baptist faith until after she married my dad who was Catholic. I was the youngest of six children that God blessed them with, and the only girl. She told me that when my oldest brother started school at St. Paul’s in Tell City, they decided to send him through catechism classes and she attended with him. By the time he finished, she realized Catholicism was the true religion. We were all baptized at the same time with her.”

That faith guided her mother through tough times in her life—working in factories and tobacco fields, and even shoveling coal off a truck to help her husband. As a balance to that side of her life, she wrote poetry.

“She had a hard life for the most part, but she never lost hope or faith. She lived to be 94 and published her book, A Lifetime of Poetry. She is my inspiration for my faith. I hope I can be an inspiration for all my children and grandchildren as she was for us.”

The Blessed Mother, a blessed mother

Amelia Mick Titsworth can still see the vigil light burning in front of the 2-foot-high statue of the Blessed Mother that her mother kept in her bedroom. In a way, it reflected how her mother’s faith inflamed her life.

“Growing up in the 1960s, our house was where my mother Dolores Mick instilled in my three brothers and me the gift of faith. We knelt around our parents’ bed to say the rosary. This is how we learned our prayers,” says Titsworth, a member of St. Thomas More Parish in Mooresville.

“By far, the best example of faith were her yearly retreats to [Our Lady of] Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis. Every Lent, she would call or visit women in the parish to encourage them to spend a weekend with God. Assumption Parish always had more than the bigger parishes, which she was so proud of. I couldn’t wait to go with her when I was 18, and see how special it was.

“My mom always prayed for her children and grandchildren to have the gift of faith, and she offered us back to the Blessed Mother at baptism as a thanksgiving. She felt Catholic education was important, and we all attended grade school and high school. I went to a Catholic college for nursing school. I am so thankful for a loving mother—and father—who instilled in all of us the gift of faith.”

‘Thank you, Mom’

Similar to many people, Tom Yost says he owes a debt to his mother.

It starts with the way she treated him and his four brothers.

“Mom spent hours upon hours listening to her sons talk about school, work, money, relationships, hurtful situations, and much more,” says Yost, a pastoral associate of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in New Albany. “She is by far the best listener I have ever known. I have given her the title of Patron Saint of Listeners. She still listens to me each morning in prayer.”

Yost has counted on that connection since Juanita Yost died suddenly of a stroke two years ago.

“Like her family and friends left behind, I am sure she was surprised at the time of her death,” he says. “Although she may have been surprised, I have no doubt she was ready to be called home by Christ. She lived life daily with faith, love and service to God and to others.

“I owe my mom so much for who I am today. She gave me the confidence and encouragement to sing publicly, play the guitar, graduate from college, be a good husband and papa, write and speak about God in my life, and to choose to work in the Church. Thank you, Mom. I miss you and I love you.”

A mother’s example

As the only daughter of her mom’s seven children, Mary Schott paid close attention to the way her mother lived her life.

She noticed how her mom “imparted the goodness of God” through her actions.

She knew the comfort of her mother’s affection.

She also saw how her mother “gave completely” to her family.

All those qualities contribute to the way she still feels about her mother 44 years after her death.

“I miss my mom,” notes Schott, a member of Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Beech Grove. “I miss her warmth and her kindness, her serenity and her gentle nature. I miss her deferential ways and her servant attitude. I miss her heart.

“I remind myself of her chastising words in my raucous teenage years, ‘Just because everybody’s doing it doesn’t make it right.’ We would do well to remember that wisdom in today’s crazy culture.

“I look forward to the day on which I can look her in the eyes and express those simple words of praise and affection, ‘Thank you.’ ”
 

(The Criterion would like to thank everyone who submitted a Mother’s Day tribute. Because of the volume of responses, we weren’t able to include every submission in our stories. We wish all the mothers in our reading audience a Happy Mother’s Day.)

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