It has been my good fortune to have had two extraordinary mothers in my life: First, my Mom, the woman who birthed me, reared me, and loved me without any boundaries. She had a tremendous, quiet inner and outer strength. Her love for her husband and two sons was at the center of her being, a fact that all three of us often probed, tested and challenged with our moods and our antics.
Mom lifted me up when I was down, celebrated with me when I had a success, challenged me when I was lagging and supported me when I embarked on what other people thought were foolish excursions. In short, she was always present with love, wisdom and a steady hand. She taught me patience and perseverance, and the importance of serving others. As she aged, she suffered from osteoporosis-related injuries, but she showed up for my games, graduations and celebrations.
She always made me feel as if I were her top priority, and I know that my brother and father felt the same way. After Dad was severely injured in 1945, losing both of his legs while serving in the Navy, Mom was by his side through years of rehabilitation and continuing health issues. But she never neglected her baby, always keeping me close as I grew and matured through childhood into adulthood.
My Second Mother
My second mother, Mama, came into my life in September 1969. My journalism teacher once corrected me when I wrote that an Arizona basketball player had unique skills. “Nothing” he scrawled in red on my paper, “is unique. There is someone somewhere in the world who has the skills to match his.” But my Mama, Anne Barksdale, was unique.
I still remember the day I arrived at her home in Danville, Virginia to marry her daughter. My nerves were jangling when I knocked on the door. After all, I was a Northern Californian and, thus, an outsider to this tight-knit southern family. Plus, after spending two days at an Air Force base waiting for a “hop,” a day traveling on a medical evacuation plane followed by hours on a Greyhound Bus, I must have looked like a vagabond in my rumpled Navy uniform. But she opened the door and before saying a word greeted me with a giant, welcoming hug.
In the nearly 50 years I knew her I never heard her utter a negative word about anyone or anything. She loved her family, her garden and was interested in almost everything from flowers to politics. Mama had a deep sense of both folk wisdom and knowledge about how the world and almost everything in it worked. Despite the facts that her husband died and left her with four young children; and, that two of her children died too early, she proclaimed that hers was a blessed life filled with joy.
Mama was always there to help care for our two girls when we needed her, to help us move from house to house, to nurse our gardens to life each spring and to bring her sense of joy into our homes. She cherished her granddaughters, and lived long enough to know and embrace her great grandchildren. Even into her 90s she would play, crawl and tumble around the floor with them. After spending most of her last years living with us, Mama died just short of her hundredth birthday.
Mom died in 2009 with me holding her hand. Her last movement was to open her eyes, look at me and say, “I love you.” Mama died in 2012. But these two amazing women continue to live in my mind and my heart to this day. I am grateful.
A Final Note:
This my final post in this blog format. Here is why:
The multiple issues and challenges facing our country and the world are serious and complex. Meeting the challenges requires understanding the seriousness, urgency, and intersecting-complexity of what faces us. I don’t feel as if my weekly opinion pieces are the best way for me to enter that conversation. In fact, they seem to me to be adding to the problem by suggesting that I have the answers.
Opinions are not answers; the answers are found in actions. And the action we desperately need today is to find a consensus that goes beyond fighting for our brand.
We have become a nation of single-issue factions and competing interest groups. Each faction and group seems willing to sacrifice democracy in return for getting their way. The voices from the extreme left and extreme right represent a minority of our population, but they dominate the conversation with my-way-or-the highway tactics. Thus, any constructive action not meeting their litmus test is blocked. They dismiss their opponents with poll-tested negative labels rather than constructively trying to find common ground.
Is There Hope for Common Ground?
As a result, elected Democrats who are prepared to work with Republicans are opposed in primaries by their more liberal counterparts. The same is true for Republicans and their far right. The victory both sides seem to be fighting for is not common good, not what is best for the nation, but for personal and party power and for their brand. The result is that any hope for common ground is lost in the noise.
In re-reading some of my posts, I think I have contributed more to the noise than to consensus building. So, I am going to take an extended sabbatical from blog writing and engage in a period of reflection, research, conversations and exploration.
The Hope and Stone blog site will stay up, and I might occasionally offer updates. I am grateful to those of you have been regular readers and I plan to stay in touch. Thank you!
Bill Jamieson’s career has included leadership positions in business, government, and education. He was also an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church and his ministry centered around advocacy for low-income families and children.