Mom had more faith than anyone I’ve met. Unshakable faith in Christ, really.

I was reminded of that recently, as I rifled through a box of nearly forgotten items from my childhood. I landed on an autograph book, a gift for my tenth birthday. Among the few autographs I collected is Mom’s. Her curly, baroque scrawl dances eloquently on the page:

June 22, 1984


How is my little turkey? This is like writing a letter! Sort of! How about the saying my mom wrote in my autograph book: “Be your labor great or small, do it well, or not at all!” But regardless of how it’s done, I’ll still love you.

Though the path is wide, the gate is narrow to heaven. Remember, your greatest treasures are in heaven when we meet Jesus face-to-face. All good things and thoughts are from our lord. He doesn’t give us any more than we can handle in this life. He’ll always be open to you wherever you or I may go.



Revisiting her inscription stirred in me the deep longing I’ve known for so long. I want her back. I’ve learned to live with the longing. But at times it consumes me. I want to know more about her. As a woman, a friend, a mother. I want to know more about me, too; about the part of me that died with her. As a woman, the mystery of your identity is delicately tethered to your mother’s existence. Almost 23 years after she left me, I have only memories, an increasingly dim sense of someone remarkable.

Lately I have a recurring desire to experience what she’d be like as a grandmother to my babies. I’d settle for a glimpse. An hour, even. I have every reason to believe she’d spoil them silly, stuffing their pockets full of chocolate and their hearts full of joy. Never being able to share my children with my mother–this is the most profound sorrow I’ve known. Sometimes it makes me feel less alive than I could be.

Now Faith is Being Sure …

That grief lurks in my darkest hours. But the darkness breaks, and eventually melts into light. Without fail, I find comfort. That’s partly because motherless women learn to be their own best sources of comfort. Mother loss makes you tough; resilient in ways you otherwise wouldn’t be.

A bigger source of comfort, though, comes from Mom’s faith. Her brief life was turbulent. Full of rejection, abuse and emotional hardship. Her father was an alcoholic, and her mother was, as I’ve learned through the family grapevine, an enabler of the alcoholism. No doubt fleeing the bitter plight of her childhood, Mom married young, and had my sister and brother in her 20s. Family history suggests that her first husband was also an alcoholic. Shortly after she delivered my brother, he left her for another woman. When my brother was a baby, she was raped by one of her first husband’s so-called friends. Authorities in the 1960s advised her not to pursue a case against her attacker–because, they explained, people would assume she provoked the rape.

My mom and me on the day I turned 14, at Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens in Ohio

Life improved a few years later, when she met my dad. They bought a house, had a baby and happily raised a blended family. At least for a while. For reasons that make no sense to me now, my parents divorced when I was 9 years old. I was playing in my room with a friend the day my dad locked my mom out of the house. Her typically calm demeanor turned to rage as she pounded on the back door of our tiny home. I don’t know where she went that day, or how my dad lived with himself afterward. I wanted to throw open the back door and run to her, but my feet morphed as they do in dreams, becoming immovable cement blocks. Years of therapy helped me see the trauma of that day wasn’t my fault. Still I wonder what would’ve happened if I had chased her.

My parents’ split left our lives in ruins. Especially Mom’s. Five years after the divorce, she was diagnosed with a rare, inoperable form of breast cancer. She died about a year after starting treatment.

Yet my mother lived fervently, as an exhortation to me, my siblings, and everyone she encountered: Follow Christ. The autograph she left behind well describes her life’s work. Through the trenches of her existence she clung ardently to the promise of the cross. I’m convinced her faith carried her to the other side. She passed me the torch of faith when she passed away. I’ve not always done it justice. By grace, though, the embers of my mother’s faith rage on. In me.

As Abraham Lincoln said:

“All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”



  1. Hello Kris
    Thank you for sharing this, it was touching and beautifully written. I am reading a French book about a woman exploring the life of her mother before she knew her and her relationship with her until her death. Very different story, especially on the relationship aspect, but they both move me and I commend you for putting these feelings on `paper.’

    • Thanks for the kind words, Sandrine. It’s amazing how writing about the most difficult topics helps you make better sense of your world.

  2. Kris, I have known you our whole lives, and as your cousin, i wept while reading this – for the pain you have endured over the years. This piece was just incredible – To read you write about your mom being kicked out and how it made you feel, as a powerless child – WOW – it made me weep. You went through so much horrible stuff as a child, and yet you have become a person with a strong faith.
    Your mom did go through so much hardship over the years, and yet her faith remained strong – her ability to laugh and enjoy life, no matter what she was facing was so inspiring she left you a great example of what it meant to be a mother and a christian – She learned through her struggles that Jesus is all we need – the only one who will never leave us or hurt us and loves us unconditionally- and He saw her through many a hard time – as you too as well –
    You had a wonderful mother – There has never been another person like her – I can still picture her face, whenever my oldest smirks! – So, part of her lives on in you and in your kids and in us.
    She would be so proud of the woman you have become. You got her two greatest qualities – her strong faith and her ability to endure in hard times. She has been able to mother you through what she has taught you about how to get through life – even though it is not fair, it is still good. I believe she taught us all that.

  3. Kristina,
    I also am touched by this post. is such a beautiful tribute to your mom. And, yes, she is STILL impacting your life. I also love what your cousin wrote. Your words inspire me to try to be the best possible mommy I can be to my own children.
    I love you and love getting to know your mom through you and your life.
    May the comfort and grace of Jesus fill you to overflowing.
    xo Julie

  4. Kris,

    I remember your fourteenth birthday vividly. We were gone all day and your mom was still wanting to take us to your grandma’s house at like 9pm from Akron all the way to Medina…lol!!
    Who would have known that just a month later she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She never looked sick and was so brave and strong through the whole ordeal. Mom and I will never forget how she was praying for the trial our family was facing practically on her death bed…so selfless, compassionate and loving…if that wasn’t the expression of Christ than I don’t know English.
    I remember the day your brother told my mom and I…we had just gone to see the movie Fatal Attraction (and fatal that was)and decided to stop and say Hi to your mom…she wasn’t home and I remember Jimmy saying the doctor found a lump in her breast and it was malignant(I didn’t know the difference between benign or malignant at the time). It was like time stood still and I just started crying instantly and couldn’t stop and knew this was not going to be a good outcome for us who remain without her here. I refused to accept that she would die because I knew the Lord couldn’t take her, we needed her here to guide and inspire and encourage us through life’s many trials.
    She was needed here for the Lord’s work.
    Your mom brought Christ to me and is my spritual mother and I long for the day to see her again…hug her and Thank Our Awesome Savior for Karen Lane. I always said your mom lived “footprints” and made no bones about the Lord carrying her through life’s trials. And He did!! She was and is a true inspiration and so deeply missed.
    Even though your time with her was short she poured out all of her wisdom, love and strength to you, your sister and brother. What you lost in quantity will never be lost by the quality of who she was and the pattern she left for us all to aspire to.
    She is smiling down on all of you and is with you always!!
    That was truly a beautiful piece you wrote…thanks for sharing it with us.

  5. What a moving, beautifully written elegy. Thank you for sharing it.

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