The Unparalleled TRUTH I Learned Growing Up Without a Momma

During the month of May, my blog has focused on Motherhood at different stages. But this post isn’t about that. This post is written by Lori, my Lady Wisdom. I asked her to share a perspective that is painful, yet beautiful – celebrating Mother’s Day when you were growing up without a momma. She was gracious enough to agree.

It seems like writing about Mother’s Day as momma of three and nana to six would be an easy task. Good grief, those two things cover so much hard stuff, good stuff, wacky stuff, sad stuff, etc., that writing about those would be a breeze!

But, that is not what Alison asked me to write about. She asked me to write about my own momma, Joyce Helen Hoke. She asked me to write about growing up without a momma.

My momma: funny; kind; wise; gentle but firm; full of joy.
My momma: amazing. I cannot even describe how amazing.
There are no words to do justice to her.

But, I guess the word that describes her the best and has defined my Mother’s Day in a big way over the last 50 years is…gone.

My momma is gone.

She has been gone almost fifty years. She died when I was six. I watched her drown while I stood on a bank with my three sisters. She died trying to save my daddy who also did not survive.

So, wow, Alison asked me to write about living Mother’s Day without a momma for all those years. Here is the thing, I cannot really write that. Because there is no way to separate every day living without my momma from one day of the year.

It is the everyday, ordinary days that really define how life is without my momma.

What was it like growing up without a momma? When I was nine years old, I started my period (excuse the personal but it’s real). I was asleep and woke up in the night scared I was dying. Nobody had ever talked to me about becoming a woman. I lived with my maternal grandmother who was busy, tired and sad. So, I wake up and I am like, “well, I am dying.” I was near hysterics. I went to my older sister (she was a very wise 11 year old) and she told me I would live and gave me some dish towels to use until she could buy me something. I had school the next day, I felt ashamed and scared. I wanted to curl up in a ball and die. And for many years after that, I felt that way. Nobody was there to tell me how to take care of the basic needs that went with that mess. Or how wonderful it actually was because God intended it for my good. I just lived with the confusion and sadness for years. But, when I had my daughters (3), I redeemed that mess.

Every time one of them became a woman, we had a celebration of womanhood. My husband would leave the house and we ate popcorn and talked and I answered every question they had. It was wonderful and it was open and it caused them to not be afraid and to not hate it.

What a sweet opportunity to do things differently than had been for me.

What was it like growing up without a momma? When I turned sixteen, I won some awards for debate and for English. I was so excited. I wanted to go to the awards ceremony. My teacher was tough. The debate award was a big deal. My grandma was busy and tired and not too awfully impressed. My friend’s momma took me and congratulated me after I received my reward. She grabbed her daughter off that stage and told her how proud she was of her. She was thrilled with her accomplishment. I realized at sixteen that I had never heard those words or anything like it since my own momma had died. To grow up your whole life and never hear an “I am proud of you” or “You did a great job”, was a really hard thing to process. I did not process it well. I became an adult who was desperate for affirmation.

My husband was the first adult to tell me he loved me and respected me after the death of my momma. Sometimes, I still yearn to pick the phone up to hear my momma gush on me and pour out her love for me.

Sometimes, I still cry because I have never been able to call her and say “Hey, momma. Guess what!”

What was it like growing up without a momma? I guess the hardest reality was when I gave birth to my own daughters. They were absolutely amazing and glorious and they were mine. That was wonderful and terrifying all at the same time. I needed to ask my mom how to raise them; how to love them; endure them; laugh with them; protect them. My momma was not there to ask. I was essentially alone as a new momma. There are things you will never ask anybody but your momma and she was gone. I remember my oldest daughter’s first fever. Did I cause it? Was I a crappy parent? Did I give the medicine right? When do I take her to the doctor? So much to know and nobody to ask.

It was so hard BUT God does what he does. He redeemed that sadness by causing me to turn to him in desperation so that HE could answer me from heaven with love and help and encouragement.

I realized that God was sufficient.

He was enough to replace even the love of a momma long gone. What a sweetness over my life that has been.

God gave me two verses over the years that came to my rescue time and again.

He is my daddy. He is my parent. I am never alone and he never dies. He never changes. I needed that over the years without my momma. He was enough. The other one was Psalm 68:6, “God sets the lonely in families.” He set me in this family I live in right now. My husband, my daughters, my son by marriage and six grands, as well as so many extra who call me momma.

You see. It suited God to take my momma and daddy and then to make me a momma to so many.

Most days I don’t struggle with that truth, but, there are days when it is still hard to not turn around to look for my momma. I want to borrow a cookbook from her, to see her family albums, to call to tell me she is worried about my dad because he insists on mowing the yard. I long to hear her ask me what size shoes the grands need for summer, to eat watermelon with her and dance in the house, to hold her hand and kiss her cheek.

My momma, I pretty much want her every day. I am thankful for the grace of God that helps me and comforts me and holds me on days when only a momma will do.

So, Mother’s Day is hard but it is also joyful.

Her legacy to me after only six years was one of love and fun and joy. It was steadfast and consistent. She truly taught me about being a momma in six short years. Please God help me leave a legacy of sweetness for my daughters.

Mommas matter. If you still have yours, please kiss her cheek and hold her hand. Please tell her how much you love her. I’m thankful for every second I had with mine. I hope to see her again in heaven when I see my Savior who has sustained me so well all these years.

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