Anita Frances Martin-Morrissey

“Motherhood is a choice you make every day, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is….and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.” – Donna Ball, At Home on Ladybug Farm

Sacrifice is a word that just about sums up my mother’s life. Trying to describe her is a bit like trying to describe a beautiful colour, nearly impossible! Nevertheless, I want to honour my mother by telling some of her story – or I should say my experience of her as her daughter. Mom was tough, very strict in many ways. Yet, she was always fair, and often very soft-hearted, though she did her best to hide it. She raised nine children in a small house without running water or such luxuries as electricity for many years – or the benefit of an indoor bathroom. I could say I don’t know how she managed it (I don’t) but my older sisters and brothers helped – a lot! So while this blog’s focus is to honour my mother, it is also to give a nod to the sacrifices made by my siblings who shared in caring for us “little ones”.

One of my favourite memories is of Mom sitting on the floor with the three of us youngest ones and cutting out paper dolls for us to colour. She would look up from time to time at the mess a family of nine children can make and sighing say, “I really should clean this up”. But then she’d smile at us and continue telling us stories of her childhood and singing our favourite songs. She sang a lot. She smiled a lot – at us children, at my father, at the birds singing, at the waves out on the ocean, at the antics of our pets, at the flowers in the fields – it didn’t take an awful lot to bring a smile to her face. Although her life was far from easy she was a joyful person.

She had a lot of sorrow in her life losing several children in miscarriage and a little girl that was born but died a few weeks later. I remember her funeral and the sadness in my mother’s eyes. I remember the pride I felt when Mom brought her home from the hospital and allowed us to hold her for a few minutes. Mom always referred to her as “our baby”. I didn’t know then the depths of despair my mother sank into following her death. Yet even though she struggled with her grief she continued to take care of all of us.

She was a woman of great faith – in God and in her religion. Her spirituality included seeing God in all people and in nature. She was a champion of the underdog and all whom she believed to be wronged in any way.

When she was in her early 40s my parents decided to move the family across the country to Ontario, where work was more easily found. In the early years she took in borders, but later chose to go to work to help build a nest egg to buy a new home, which they did after a few years. Five years later my father would suffer a heart attack that would put him out of commission for nearly a year. Mom continued to work until seven years later when she learned she had cancer. Ten days after entering hospital and ten days before her 59th birthday she died. But even while she was facing one of the biggest challenges of her life Mom continued to be a source of comfort and peace for all of us. I remember commenting on her strength one day while I was visiting and she replied, “I’m not that strong you know”. I replied, “I know you are not made of stone, that’s why I’m here, why we’re all here”. However she seldom leaned on us, where she gathered her strength from I don’t really know, but I suspect it was the faith she carried throughout her life.

My mother died over 30 years ago, but her essence lives on in all her children and grandchildren. She left us a legacy of love that I hope will live on and on. Thanks for all the wonderful lessons Mom – both the hard ones and the sweet ones. You are not forgotten – and never will be.

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