My mother walked into the family room, looking almost sheepish, and said, “I want to show you something.” She was almost beaming as she got out a yellowed sheet of paper, folded into four panels, with a hand-written title on the cover: To Mary. It was evident that this paper, whatever it contained, was precious to her.
She held the document up to her heart and explained that my father had written it for her many years ago. She wanted me to know that they did have their moments of closeness that superseded any of the difficulties during nearly 50 years of marriage. And now, a couple of years removed from Dad’s 2007 death from lung cancer, Mom truly treasured a poem he penned back in the 1960s.
“Go ahead, read it!” she said, turning her head with tears in her eyes. And so I did.
It has oft been said, “Please do not grieve.”
‘Tis far better to give than to receive.
And at this time of love and of cheer,
I think of all about me here.
The loving family with which I’m blest,
And know within, I’m not a guest.
That all about me is real and true,
That what I have is because of you.
Daily you give these gifts of love,
Of which I am recipient of.
And I wonder in my small way,
‘Dear Lord, how can I ever repay?’
This woman who is always ready,
to wipe a nose or wind a teddy?
Who at this time bears the gift of gifts,
A child of God sleeps within her midst.
A child who needs loving care,
To grow strong, to know what’s right and fair.
These few reasons and so many more,
Make it easy to see why I adore.
This woman, who is my wife,
Who will share with me throughout my life,
All the joys and troubles that we will face,
And put them in their proper place.
So I offer my gift at this time to you,
My deepest love, which indeed is not new.
Needless to say, I was very touched. My father, despite his tremendous gifts in public speaking and dealing with people, found it difficult to express thoughts in writing. So this definitely came from the heart. Whenever he had a speech to give or a presentation before the Sun Prairie City Council or the Dane County Board of Supervisors, Dad wrote out a draft and Mom helped him polish it with structure and grammar. She was always the reading teacher!
I was tickled that she not only saved the poem, but seemed to get the same thrill as I’m sure she did upon first receiving it four decades earlier. This was a softer side of Mom we didn’t always see growing up, but which became a central part of her as the autumn years turned to winter. I photographed the card and gave it back to Mom, who put it away again for safekeeping.
I thought of the poem again shortly after Mom died in late December 2018. I was given the black-and-white photo atop this story to scan for Mom’s memorial video. I was struck by how young my parents looked, probably shortly after being married in August 1958. It was easy to see the sentiments of the poem in this photograph.
Dad, thank you for writing something that Mom treasured her entire adult life. And Mom, thanks for sharing it, and showing a side of you that you tried to keep hidden. As we observe the first Mother’s Day without you, we are heartened by the thought of you two, together in the company of the angels and saints. Happy Mother’s Day.
©2019 The Hanneman Archive