Ode to a mother

Celebration of a life lived. In memoriam: June 9, 2017

Inadequate at best—


to pen a shining life

of ninety and three years;

like water through fingers, she stole away

indisputable, unstoppable, to her final place of rest


the first after three boisterous boys—

she joked with her initials: BJH

Baboon, Jackal, Hare;

but wiped away tears with brothers as tutors:

“pedal harder!” they chided at her fear that she’ll fall and unfurl


Kindergarten teacher,

A class of forty bristling brats

receptive little rascals, who drank her every word;

and evenings she’d learn, and sketch from live anatomy

soon modeling with clay, the fingers deft—

sculpt a figure bold, from a posing unclothed creature


When the African interior

came recruiting—the Mission field—unflinching, she heeded the call;

there, amongst mopani, bougainvillea, and the sweetest wisteria

a shy preacher she met, a zealous man, and occasional big game hunter.

Five children, she birthed—discovered her role—of protector, of mother and rock,

when the missionary would journey for weeks on end as if all superior


Her brave, her vibrant spirit

he’d hammer and nail (in secret at first)

then justify the orthodox preaching, his incessant teaching—

her sculptures, her figures verboten

against the second commandment, he claimed

down the long-drop, they went—each a quiet blow—all to her merit


And yet dearest Mother,

you never recoiled

alone and unshakable—in the midst of belittling.

You clung to this truth:

“My grace is sufficient,”

refusing, rebuking, the constant barrage—each attempt your soul try to smother



You were the one to pick us up

when off the bicycles we came—

Dad, away, on yet another Mission’s trip.

A fleeting hug, a sideways kiss,

dabbing of mercurochrome

on each abraded knee and palm, then coaxed us on, “get up, get up!”


High school teacher,

wife of a preacher, who manned the fort

playing: mother and father,

prosecutor, counsel for the defense, and keeper of the peace—

stretching her pennies

to feed and clothe the clan—more often than none, her distinguishing feature


Your teaching

on girlfriends and boyfriends was clear—

“keep them at arms’ length,” you always admonished.

We laughed and we chortled,

as we hugged you firmer, kissed you harder,

whenever so gently you pushed us away—‘cause this you said, was breaching


Middle aged we grew

while the two of you grew old—

astounding to us, your stance,

loyalty beyond imagination,

shrugged your shoulders broad at his derisive declaration—

of the prophecies, you have no comprehension, but we know, ‘twas untrue



you introduced the grandchildren

to the potter’s wheel,

the art of centering the clay, while pedaling the wheel—

fire up the kiln, bake big and small creations;

painted in the brightest colors—then, baked them all once more—do bother



you never claimed perfection, to be a parent without fault—

and yet, we expected that, and so much more;

to keep us safe, protected, shielded from his lashing tongue, the constant hurt.

And now—we mourn your sudden passing—a mere ten days behind him,

We pause, unwilling and uncertain—perchance the pain of healing that we fear


Inadequate at best—


to pen a radiant life

of ninety and three years;

suffice to say, dear Mother, we were blessed.

‘Till we meet again—without pain, or fear or sorrow—until then, do rest.



(Far better is it to celebrate a life lived, than to merely mourn their passing. Thank you for reading!)

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5 thoughts on “Ode to a mother

  1. My sincere condolences to you and your family at this time. I cannot imagine to lose both parents within a few days. The tribute poems were very well written and gave me an understanding of their lives.
    My thoughts and prayers are with you. Tina

    • Tina,
      Thank you.
      It was hard. Dad has been ill for several years. Mom’s passing was a big surprise and shock.
      These poems are to begin the process of healing.
      Take care,

  2. Ag Daan…. my hart gaan uit na jou.,. Koester al die mooi herrinneringe…. Tot ons haar weer sien… xxx

  3. Our sincere condolences to you, Danie, on the recent loss of your mom and dad. Please be assured of our thoughts and prayers as you and your family make this journey. I am a firm believer that grief is a lifelong process that only becomes less painful in the course of time. However; you have also reminded us of the legacy that parents leave behind which help set the paths we journey ourselves. We are also blessed with the good times shared together and the importance of family. Blessings brother.

    • Randy & Debbie,
      Thank you for the kind words!
      Much appreciated.
      Yes, journey it will remain.