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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Mother's Day and Therapeutic Writing by Sarah J. McNeal

I dread Mother’s Day. It’s not that I don’t wish for those of you who are mothers or have mothers living to have a miserable day or something, it’s just me and what the day brings to me.

Me and Mom...the Steinbeck Grapes of Wrath version

I loved the way we celebrated Mother’s Day with my mom. Most often, we served her breakfast in bed and later, we had a special dinner to celebrate her. Most often, if the weather prevailed, we had the dinner outdoors in the orchard. Rainy days it was the screened-in porch. Living in the south, Mother’s Day generally fell on a warm day, sometimes even hot. With no air conditioning, we usually opted for an outdoor celebration. I can still remember the sun shining down on us, the smell of Mom’s roses, and the warm breeze blowing through the Pear and Apple trees. No matter what we gave her, Mom always seemed to love our presents.

My mother spent most of my growing up years fighting rheumatic heart disease. I never really understood how brave she was or what she endured for our sakes. I didn’t know until she died. She spent her last days on Earth in a room across from the nurses’ station on the unit where I worked at Mercy Hospital. At least I got to spend time with her while I was at work. On Thanksgiving Day in 1974 I tried to get her to eat, but she was too sick. By the next evening, she had left this earthly plane. She was only fifty-four. I was twenty-seven. I wasn’t ready. Even though she’d been steadily losing her health, I was unprepared to let her go.
Mom in the 1950's With Her Pop Bead Necklace

Even now, as Mother’s Day approaches, I feel the dread of it bearing down like a dark cloud.
The good thing is, I can use my writer's therapy. When I write about mothers in my Wildings stories, I find it’s uplifting. I give them great husbands, loving children, and good health. I do have my favorites. Lola Wilding is everything I ever wished for my mother. She is healthy, witty, and knows things because she’s actually come from the future. I love Lola’s sarcasm and nonchalance when she’s faced with a challenge. And I love the way Harmonica Joe loves her.

I give the Wildings plenty of years to spend with their parents. Wilding Moms have a way of being involved and show their love for their children, even when their children are adults. Whenever I write about these moms, I get to celebrate my mother and what I would have loved to have shared with her as I grew into my older years.

For those of you who are mothers or have living mothers, I wish you a splendid Mother’s Day this Sunday. I hope you treasure your moms and your children as much as you can in the time you have with them. Mothers are quiet champions.

Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. Some of her fantasy and paranormal books may also be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Victory Tales Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media:


  1. Thank you for sharing your story, Sarah. Your lovely mother sounds like quite a woman. I also hate holidays like Mother's Day because it is a day I count not only my blessings but my losses (both my parents left us way too soon)--but at least I have blessings to count. I feel for the people who are reminded of their losses on this day.
    And I can relate to therapeutic writing. One of my friends who encouraged me to write is a therapist. One time when my family was going through a hard time, she asked if I was writing. I admitted I was and felt guilty about enjoying myself in the midst of such trouble. She told me I shouldn't feel that way, because writing for me is therapy. And I can best help others if I remain strong.
    Your book looks very interesting!

    1. I'm so glad your therapist recommended writing. In our imagination we can create a world where we have power and, because of our power, we can make all things work out as we wish they could in our real lives.
      I understand your pain at losing your parents too soon. Suddenly you're out at sea without a captain or a rudder and you have to guide your ship all on your own. Mother's Day and Father's Day can be reminders of all we've lost.
      Writing smooths out all the rough edges of our lives and eases the corners where the sadness lies. Never feel guilty about discovering a way to lighten your heart and make your life happy.
      Thank you so much for coming and for leaving this insightful comment, Patti.

  2. I'm so happy you have a number of happy memories of your mother. I laughed when I saw that pop bead necklace - I'd forgotten all about those and my first forays into jewelry making. Thanks for the lovely post!

    1. LOL Yes, lest we should forget those wonderful pop beads, Ashantay. I suppose they would be banned now since I'm certain they would be considered a choking hazard to small children. Those disclaimers didn't exist then, before Ralph Nader showed us the ills of our ways.
      Mothers bring comfort and love to a family. They remember to do the thoughtful things and never forget a birthday--or at least, that was my experience.
      Thank you so much for visiting and leaving a comment, Ashantay. I miss speaking with you in person.

  3. Sara, this was such a sweet tribute to your mom. My husband's father had rheumatic fever as a child. He passed away when he was 47 of a massive heart attack. He'd been to the doctor the day before and got a clean bill of health.
    I worked at Mercy in the 80's. Small world. I think it is wonderful you got to spend those last precious moments with your mom.
    My mom has Alzheimer's, and I recently got to have a short visit with her. She is failing fast and I'm not sure she knew me. She'd answer but stared off in the distance the entire visit. My mom was so beautiful, full of life, it is hard to see her this way.
    I think its wonderful how you incorporate her into your books. Such a nice way to honor her memory.

    1. Barbara, I was in CCU in the 80's here in Charlotte. We could have passed each other in the halls and never known we would come to know one another one day.
      A dear friend of mine just lost her mother to Alzheimer's after a long downhill slide. She and her brother took their mom out every single day until the last few days. Her condition was hard on them, but Lucille always recognized them. Sometimes she would seem to be in another world visiting with those who had already left this world. I feel so bad for you that you're losing some of the closeness with your mom. It must be hard on you. I am so sorry.
      Thank you for sharing this part of your life story. I think it's healing for others in the same situation to know they are not alone.

  4. Lovely tribute to your mother, Sarah. It reminds me of my mother who also died young when I was only 27. Even though Mother's Day is now spent with my children remembering me, the day is a good reminder of the love and honor I have for my own mother.

    1. Robyn, you are so blessed to have children of your own to keep Mother's Day a happy occasion for you. Things that your mother taught you, shared with you while you were growing up are the things you can share with your own children. You are very lucky in that way.
      Like me, I know you must mourn the time you didn't get to share with your mother. What a comfort they could have been to us when we experienced hard times. Having lost our mothers so young has probably made us stronger.
      Thank you for relating your loss and commenting, Robyn.

  5. Sarah, I have mixed feelings about Mother's Day. Even when Mom was alive and "herself"--before Altzheimer's, it seemed like Mother's Day was a HUGE event that could never just "happen"--always had to be orchestrated somehow, and well--that's just not me. I miss my mom, as an adult, but boy, we sure had some rocky times during my growing up years. It seemed like after I had my kids, everything reconciled--at least to a point.

    I truly miss her now, but I realize I lost her many years before she physically passed. Times change--and for my own Mother's Day celebrations, our family usually goes out somewhere to eat and celebrate--much more laid back. LOL

    I love how you treat your moms in your Wilding series. And I do think writing is VERY cathartic.

    Hugs, dear friend!

    1. I see very clearly, Cheryl, we didn't all get to have selfless, loving moms. My sister is somewhat like your mom was about Mother's Day. She has high expectations of what my niece and nephew should do for her. It hurts them when she lets them know she's disappointed with something they planned--same thing for her birthday.
      I loved ou homemade picnics we had in the orchard. Mom appreciated whatever we did for her. Her own mother was none too kind to her, so I am grateful we could make her happy.
      People love their children in such different ways--some show it better than others. I'm so glad for you that you have such loving children to honor you.
      Writing is better than having a psychotherapist. I can sort things out and make them right between the pages of my stories. It's comforting.
      I am so happy you came by and shared a part of your own childhood memories with me. Thank you, Cheryl, my friend.

  6. Thank you Sarah for articulating the unease of the holiday for those who don't have a mother still living. I did have my mother/best friend until 2011. Her mother passed when she was seven. Doris

    1. Although it breaks my heart to think of a seven year old losing a mother, I think it might be more difficult for those of us who have spent time with our mothers, time enough to bond a loving relationship with them just before they left us. More to miss, more to mourn; more to wish for them to stay.
      Your loss is still an open wound. My mother died in 1974 and there are days when I feel the loss as much as I did the night she died. The time between at least has grown longer.
      I sincerely thank you for coming by and commenting, Doris.

  7. Sarah,

    I've written umpteen comments and deleted each one of them, because they ranged from 'I definitely need therapy' to being 'downright maudlin'. So, I'll just say that I, too, have Mother's Day celebration issues. Not because my mother is gone (she's quite healthy and strong at 83), but because we were never close--ever--and since my dad, with whom I was quite close, passed away three years ago, I've taken on the role of watching out for her (although she needs little in the way of 'watching'). That we never had a good relationship has definitely created challenges for us now, but somehow we're managing, and I am grateful for that.

    1. I know some were not as lucky as me to have a mother to love and understand them. That you ended up taking care of her after your father's death must have been so difficult. It certainly shows your strength of character to do for her what she may not have been able to do for you growing up. Because you had to rewrite your comment several times, tells me what a struggle it has been for you.

      There was a time when my dad and I could not seem to see eye-to-eye on anything. We would bicker and fuss with each other at least once a week. My mom said we were too much alike. Maybe. I just wanted more independence and Pop seemed determined to have me at home in his sight at all times. After my mom died, my dad and I found a whole new footing in our relationship. We actually talked about feelings. I asked him why he did some of the things he did I was opposed to and he answered them. He was such a stoic, but he changed and opened up. Even though I may have done things differently than him, I realized he made his decisions based on values from his childhood. But the big thing was that he and I got to reset our relationship. We came to really understand one another. I hope, over time, you can have that with your mother.

      But regardless of the outcome between you and your mother, I just want to say how much I admire your strength and the honorable way in which you are handling the situation.

      I can't help but wonder how you write about mothers. Do you make them the polar opposite of your mother, or the same? Do you find writing a soothing kind of work that sets things right for you?

      Thank you so much for your open honesty, Kaye. I'm so glad you came.

    2. And thank you for your kind words. When I include older parents in a story, the fathers tend to be more loving and attentive, and the offspring are closer to the father than the mother. I've not written a 'bad' mother into a story, but I've certainly included mothers who are emotionally distant to their children (especially daughters). Yes, writing is an important part of how I attempt to set everything right in my life. :-)

  8. Oh, Sarah. I wanted to cry reading your post. It's so touching and real and I thank you for sharing. It must have been very difficult having your mother in the hospital on the floor where you worked. Or maybe it was a blessing--best you, who adored her, than a stranger.
    Mother's Day is often a mixed blessing. I don't care about me or what my family does or doesn't do...I don't really need any attention at all. But it's bittersweet for me. I had the best mother while growing up, but as she aged and became widowed and remarried, she became a different person..or maybe that was the real "her" finally coming out. It was hard watching and listening to her berate us and even our precious daddy who had died decades before. I believe she died bitter and resentful. This has been hard for me and my sisters.
    So, I do love to read about yours. Happy Mother's Day, and Happy Memories.

    1. Celia, going back to work after Mom died was one of the hardest things I ever did. I only had three days leave and it wasn't enough. Pop encouraged me to get back to my usual routine. He told me to just take special care of the patient in Mom's room. My friend and coworker was so supportive when I faced that room. Shortly afterward, I entered the core curriculum studies to qualify as a nurse in Coronary Care.

      I thought Pop was going to mourn himself to death. He wouldn't eat. He sat in his chair listening to bagpipe music except for two hours a day when he had to go to the TV station and present the weather report. Later, he remarried, but he seemed disappointed and unhappy. We became closer during that time. He had always been such a stoic, but he began to open up and we talked about so many things. I got answers to my burning questions and came to understand each other so much more. I have gratitude for that because we used to bicker and fuss with each other over my need to be independent through my teen years and early twenties. Mom said we were too much alike. Maybe. But he certainly became my rock and solace before he died.

      I can't help but wonder if your mom had something organic going on in her later years that changed her personality. Some people show sadness with anger and bitterness. My sister is like that. She says the most horrible things when she's feeling depressed. She has a personality disorder and chronic depression, so it happens often even with medication. Perhaps your mother was actually sad later in life. Whatever the cause, it must have been so difficult for you and your sisters to endure. I'm glad at least that you had your growing years with a caring and loving mom. And you had such a great dad. I know you're grateful for the wonderful memories of him. I love to read about your childhood memories.

      The more I come to know you, the more I feel this connection with you. We're alike in so many ways and different in others, yet, I feel this deep empathy with you. I guess I could say it more simply by just saying I really "get you". One of the best things a person can give another is understanding. The more I read your posts, comments, and books, the more I feel I know who you really are. You're an amazing human being.