Growing up with eight brothers and only one sister, mom known as “Sis” by the boys and treated with respect.
She had a toughness— Plowing with horses, haying with mice crawling up her pants, hauling the water to wash the dishes and laundry 12 people could make. 
She rarely spoke of her childhood. Of her dad, she mentioned once that he gave no affection though worked hard: By day as a farmer. By night in the coal mines.
No one modeled love to her. 
But they worked hard.

Coming to know Christ through a Billy Graham tent meeting as a teen, she could not attend alone, so took her brothers close to her age.
They came to know Christ too.
She learned of Bible College and went. This poor girl from the farm went to the big city of Philadelphia. 
There she met dad. 

I wish I could tell how she was treated like a queen and loved, but she wasn’t, though she gave her life to him, he gave his to others.
She remained faithful, in spite of his lack, and six girls she bore and raised. 
Affection wasn’t her strong point, but hard work was. And she gave it as if it was all she had.

The first three of us girls can remember Parker Dam trips for a cold morning swim, working on badges for Pioneer Girls with mom as our leader, books and books she bought for us that stirred our hearts to know the God she depended upon when she could share with no one her burdens. 
We’d scour the Pennsylvanian hillsides for blackberries, showing mom our rewards.
She’d leave the kitchen until our pies were finished, and our mess cleaned up— piece-meal crusts, so unlike hers. 
We’d eat as a family at 6 o’clock sharp, when dad returned from work.
She didn’t want to get old. She was young then, I thought.

Then we moved from Pennsylvania to Indianapolis, where Dad was unemployed.
Mom worked so we wouldn’t go to public school.
She became the sole provided for years as Dad stumbled from one job to another.
Her hard work fed us. This was the mom the three younger girls remember.

Mom showed her love the only way she knew how—she worked hard.
Not for the love of the job, she hated it—stocking shelves, unloading trucks.
Those heavy boxes wore on her body, especially after having six babies. The untold pain she endured just to work.
She made sure all of us completed our high school years in a Christian school.
I remember trying to do her jobs at home. They were hard.

We moved several times during those years, each year into a worse neighborhood. Her money went to make sure we were safe at school.
Her sacrifice, though unsung by the world, testifies to her love for us.
For that was how she knew to show her love.

When I married, she asked, “Are you sure?”
She kept hidden the secrets of her pain.
Mom was never a talker. But looking back, I wonder why I never asked her more of her life and dreams.
I didn’t even know when their wedding anniversary was; they never celebrated it.
Nor did we celebrate her birthday.

Years later, when answers came, clarity came too.
But a sadness at how mom’s life was lived without love, except by what she received from her girls.

I hesitated to call her. Maybe it wasn’t a good time. It seemed a bother to her. She was busy.
Joey warmed her up to a hug. Describing the first time he hugged her as hugging a board, but toward the end, she softened.
His “Happy Mother’s Day” was greeted every year with “I’m not your mother.”
But when he was deployed and his days were off, he missed calling her. She asked about it.
Those glimpses allowed into her life told she cared.
Though she didn’t know how to care back.
She worked hard to make sure every one of us girls and then the grandkids had one of her quilts.
A labor of love poured into those stitches. They embodied what she could not say.

All those silent burdens she bore—sharing with no one— wore her down—mentally, physically, 
Even when her mind drifted near the end, she never spoke of dad as a poor provider or father.
When she could not work, she was at a loss.
How could she show love, when that’s all she knew to do.
It seemed a curse.
Yet in those times, when she couldn’t do anything, even make her coffee, she saw love in the work done for her.
So hard to accept. 
Her caustic remarks or silent treatments only made it harder.

It was hard for her to receive when hard work was where she found her worth.
Toward her end, when sitting was her day, her mind couldn’t even conceive of the lives she touched by her hard work.
By her sacrifice.
By her faithfulness.
Her faithfulness kept our family together. 
It’s hard to imagine where we all would be without her.

We can easily remember the barbs her words gave, but behind them was a soul who was never loved by man.
Yet loved us dearly.
Many things that I can do are because of my mom.
She didn't officially teach me. She just showed me.
She baked, cooked, canned, cleaned—all the hard work that makes a family work.
Mom may be gone.
But what she taught us continues.
We work hard.
Clean up our own messes.
And have learned from her that love goes deeper than just words.

Displaying all 4 comments

Wow, Babe. That made me cry...a lot.

Her children turned out wonderful. What a great tribute to a wonderful mother.

I write about what you---
women, wives and moms---
about your family, faith and future.
I write about what's hard, what helps and what heals.
I show you how it's done. And not done.
I hold your hand as you find what matters to the Savior.
And let go of those things that mattered to you, but not to Him.
I write about what Him.
               Sonya Contreras

Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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