I think that challenging mothers can help us to grow and mature, no matter the angst we might suffer at the time, especially when their intentions are good. That was certainly the case with both of our precious Christian mothers. They truly wanted to be the best mothers they could be and wanted us to be the best we could be.
On the other hand, my friend Holly did not have a caring mother. Her mother, Patricia, was imprisoned for a while and then deserted Holly and her two brothers when she was four. Then, surprisingly, she mailed them plane tickets to join her in Florida. When they flew there to meet her, she informed them they couldn’t stay with her after all with her new man and left them there. Kind souls at the airport helped them to reach Holly’s grandparents, who came to get them and kept them until they were grown.
Holly was never one to embrace the norm. She was in my husband’s college classes, often dropping out because she had to work or was ill due to poor nutrition. She usually lived in her car, as a college student, but she did finally graduate. She was undoubtedly brilliant, but tended to waste her skills and time. She never looked for a handout, but always had some kind of job to pay her way.
Once or twice she saw her mother, obviously homeless, in downtown Cincinnati, where Holly lived. Holly always fled, recognizing her mother but not wanting to deal with her. A lot of bitterness there.
One day Holly got a call from the Anna Louise Inn, a local low-rent facility for single women. They said they hadn’t heard from Holly’s mother for a few days and her door was locked. Typically, Holly responded with “What does that have to do with me?” They said Holly and her phone number were listed as next of kin—not Patricia’s parents.
Holly was baffled. Where did Patricia get her phone number? (Probably from Holly’s grandparents.) Why would she list Holly when Holly’s older brother and the grandparents also lived in Cincinnati? What should she do?
Then she noticed a policeman down the street and asked his advice. He offered to accompany her to see what was going on. They were just a few blocks from the Inn.
The lady at the desk said privacy policies had prevented them from entering the room. Holly’s ID got her a key to Patricia’s room. When they opened the door, Holly and the policeman stepped back in horror at the odor that struck them. Patricia had been dead for several days, the sight of her desiccated body ever burned into Holly’s mind.
She was also a hoarder. The room was filled, floor almost to ceiling, with old newspapers, carryout wrappers, and other stuff she’d picked up around town. Evidently she’d held a part-time job enough to pay for her room at the Inn, but not much else.
From then on, Holly’s greatest fear was that she would die alone and not be found. She decided the solution was to commit suicide in an obvious way. She stepped in front of a moving train, but not quick enough to be dead—just injured. (She said, “I should have lain down on the tracks, but I didn’t have time.”) She climbed into a dumpster, but she was found and retrieved. She called me one night from a bridge where she planned to jump. She said she just wanted to tell me how much she appreciated what I’d tried to do for her. I managed to keep her talking while I called the police on my landline and they picked her up. Another tragedy averted.
Holly assured me that her brother did not influence her to take drugs, though he did so regularly. I believed her.
Then I saw a “Rest in peace, Holly” on Facebook! She had been found dead in her new apartment—one she’d gotten because it was close enough for her to walk to church, to be with the new family she’d found through faith in Christ.
I talked to her landlady; I got the coroner’s report. She had overdosed on fentanyl, no doubt through her younger brother. But here’s where the strange part emerges: The landlady said that two men appeared that morning, saying they needed to do an individual apartment check for insurance purposes. As they went door to door in the building, they would knock for entrance. If no one came to the door, the landlady would use her key to let them in.
Thus they found Holly prone on the floor, having died only a couple of hours earlier. Her deepest desire was granted; she was found quickly after she died. Her body was not found in the state of her mother’s, which was a great blessing to me, knowing her fear.
And, oddly enough, the landlady said that in all the years they’d been there, they had never before had any kind of insurance inspection for each apartment. She, too, saw that as a great blessing—truly a gift from God.
God Moves in a Mysterious Way by William Cowper