I always knew I wanted to be a mom. I wanted the full experience – a big belly, labor, nursing, holding my baby close in my arms – the whole shebang. When I found out I was pregnant it was one of the best moments of my life. For me, that little zygote was a miracle. For me, that little zygote was my baby from the moment of conception. And when I saw his little heart beating, felt that first faint movement inside me, felt him pushing against me with his feet – it was magic! Labor wasn’t easy – but as soon as he was born and I got that rush of oxytocin – I told my husband I was ready to do this again!
I’m telling you this because I want you to underestand where I’m coming from when I tell you I am pro-choice. When it came to my own pregnancies, I never would have considered an abortion. But my prenancies were planned with happy anticipation. My babies were seen to be healthy in my womb. I was healthy as they grew inside me. I had the support of a wonderful husband and we were financially stable.
Not every woman feels the way I felt when I learned I was pregnant. Pregnancy is not “magic” in every situation and for every woman. Some females lose their lives because they’re pregant. Some females lose their lives in labor. Some females are still children themselves – with their whole lives in front of them and in no place – mentally, emotionally, socially, or financially – to become mothers responsible for other children. To some females, the idea of growing another human being inside of them is simply unfathomable and terrifying. Some females are pregnant because they’re the victims of rape and incest. Some females learn their babies are suffering from severe deformities that will cause them to have short pain-filled lives – and they want to spare their babies from that. For some women pregnancy is not the most magical thing they’ll ever experience, it is the most traumatic.
Every woman is unique – with her own needs and wants and fears – and every woman should have the freedom to choose for herself how her body should be used.
My mother tells me that when I was born and she held me in her arms for the first time, the weight of the responsibility of raising and caring for me suddenly filled her with great fear. She was so afraid she’d mess it all up somehow.
She looked up at the doctor and shared her fears with him. The doctor smiled at her sweet face and said, “Love her. Just love her.”
This was something my mom knew how to do – and do really well.
My brothers and I may not have had the most conventional up-bringing – but none of us could have asked for a mother with more love in her heart. We grew up witnesses to how she expressed love to others – seeing her voice her protest for those who were being treated unfairly, watching her take in stray animals and make them part of the family, seeing how a room would light up as soon as she entered it and smiled her love on everyone. And the love she expressed wasn’t some feigned thing, either. It came from deep inside her – true and pure. She truly loved mankind and all God’s creatures – and we saw this, and incorporated her example into our own sense of how to live a decent and moral life.
As I think back on my younger years, there’s one moment that stands out for me. I think I must have been in my early twenties, and there was some sadness about a break-up with a boyfriend or something – dashed hopes of some kind – I can’t remember the specifics now – but I was feeling lost and alone – not sure what direction I was supposed to take in my life. I was home visiting Mom and Dad, and had gone out into the backyard to look up at the stars and pray. Mom must have known I was out there, and came and stood beside me. I shared my sadness with her then – I think I shared how I was feeling like a “surplus” person – like there seemed to be no place for me. My mom reached over to one of her rose bushes and gently plucked a rose from it and handed it to me. She looked into my eyes and said, “This is you. I see you unfolding into a most beautiful rose.” And then she went back into the house.
Wow. Those simple words, spoken with perfect love, totally reversed my thoughts about myself and my circumstances. Mom loved me. Mom thought I was unfolding like a beautiful rose. How cool is that?!
Moz knew me the longest of anyone – she knew me before I was born! – and nobody loved me like Moz loved me. I’m so glad I got to have her on earth with me for 60 years before she passed on. I was truly blessed to have her for my mother.
“As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings…” – Deuteronomy 32: 11
“A mother’s affection cannot be weaned from her child, because the mother-love includes purity and constancy, both of which are immortal. Therefore maternal affection lives on under whatever difficulties.” – from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy
“Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth… the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever. And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places…” -Isaiah 43
“The cement of a higher humanity will unite all interests in the one divinity.” -Mary Baker Eddy
“Universal Love is the divine way in Christian Science.” -Mary Baker Eddy
Five years ago today we brought Moz into our home. The nurturers from hospice came in and showed us how to care for Mom. Moz and I spent the afternoon telling each other how much we loved each other. At the end of the day it became hard for Moz to speak, but I was greedy. I needed to hear it one more time. “You love me, don’t you?” And I’ll never forget the expression in Moz’s eyes as they locked onto mine and poured her love into me. I knew exactly what she was saying to me with her eyes: “You KNOW I love you!”
No one loved me like Moz loved me.
Early the next morning, as I lay sleeping on the couch next to her bed, she passed on. I could feel her brush by me in my sleep – it was this beautiful, joyful dream – full of peace and joy and love.
It’s been almost five years since then, but it feels like yesterday that you left, brushed by me as I slept, on your way to the other side of infinity. There are still days when I think I should pick up the phone and give you a call. But I know I don’t really need a phone to talk with you. I feel you with me – here and now. The sons are both married now; and Dad has gone – joined you on the other side of infinity; I’m retired, sort of; and we have a new president. Everything has changed and nothing has changed since then. I feel your love. You must feel mine. -Karen Molenaar Terrell, from Since Then
The Brush of Angel Wings
The end was like the beginning – the oxygen machine breathing, making the sound of the womb, a soothing rhythm in the room as she slept on the bed next to me. All is quiet, but for the pumping of O through her mask. In my dreams I feel the light brush of angel wings and fear is replaced by freedom and limitless joy that comes through an opened heavenly portal. I open my eyes to see the battle over and done. She has won. I rise and stand on holy ground. -Karen Molenaar Terrell, from The Brush of Angel Wings
“…individual good derived from God, the infinite All-in-all, may flow from the departed to mortals…” – Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures
It’s been almost five years since then, but it feels like yesterday that you left, brushed by me as I slept, on your way to the other side of infinity. There are still days when I think I should pick up the phone and give you a call. But I know I don’t really need a phone to talk with you. I feel you with me – here and now. The sons are both married now; and Dad has gone – joined you on the other side of infinity; I’m retired sort of; and we have a new president. Everything has changed and nothing has changed since then. I feel your love. You must feel mine. -Karen Molenaar Terrell
I’ll be speaking to the Skagit Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship on Mother’s Day via Zoom at 10:30. This will be the third time I’ve had the opportunity to be the speaker there – and it’s always such a joy for me! It’s like being in a comedy club. The SUUF folks know how to laugh.
Here’s the announcement in their newsletter: A Love Story for Mother’s Day Karen Molenaar Terrell returns to SUUF to share some of the memories and stories from a love-filled life with her mother, Colleen “Mozzy” Molenaar, who passed away in 2017 at the age of 89. As a visitor to SUUF that year, Colleen was so impressed with our church that she immediately declared that it was where she wanted her final memorial to be held… and it was, just months later. Her grandson, Casey, described her as “… a giving and goofy woman.” Today we’ll hear from Karen about this, her “great taste in shoes” and much more.
As we drive by the sturdy old farmhouses
tucked into the folds of green Midwestern land
I feel the tug to appear on the front porch
of one of these homes and introduce myself
I imagine myself welcomed in, hugged,
fed hardy soup, tucked into a quilt made
by Grandma and ensconced next to one
of those old-fashioned heating radiators
gurgling with life as its pipes fill the rooms
with cozy warmth
And I suddenly have a yearning
for the comfort and reassurance
of my mother
– Karen Molenaar Terrell
(Originally published on Mother’s Day, 2018.)
I’m missing Moz this Mother’s Day. I wish she was here with me so we could watch The Music Man together and laugh at the Shipoopi song. I wish I could hear her talk about her father one more time, and sing the Christopher Robin song with her. I imagine taking her out to my hobbit hole of a secret garden and listening to the birds singing with her. I imagine sitting out on the back deck in the sun with her and talking about family and friends and politics.
When I’d driven her home from the hospital a month before she’d passed she’d smacked her lips together and said, “I want some cream cheese dip and potato chips.” I wish I could give that to her one more time.
I can’t do any of those things with Moz right now – but here’s what I’ve got: I’ve got memories of laughing together, singing together, talking together; I’ve got the lessons she taught me – be kind to everyone; “love the hell” out of the crabby people; treat all of God’s creation with care and respect; be generous; play fair; speak up for the little guy; keep learning; be able to laugh at yourself; be brave; be honorable; have some awesome adventures. I carry Moz’s love with me.
Here’s wishing mothers everywhere a most magnificent Mother’s Day.
So last year in honor of Moz I sent a bouquet of Mother’s Day flowers to a friend who had been very dear to Moz. This year it came to me that I needed to honor Moz by bringing a Starbucks gift card to one of my heroes: The bank manager at Moz and Dad’s bank who had been so kind and helpful and amazing to my parents and I as we’ve negotiated moves and death and inheritance and safety deposit boxes in the last couples years. I seriously do not know what we would have done without Laura in our corner.
When I got to the bank Laura recognized me right away and gave me a big hug and I handed her the card. She told me to come back into her office when I was done with the banking stuff I had to do. When I joined her at her desk she told me that on Wednesdays in Anacortes the schools always start late and so she and other moms have taken to meeting at Starbucks with their youngsters for breakfast. And last Wednesday, Laura told me, she brought chalk to Starbucks for the kids to color the sidewalks. Then she got out her phone and showed me how the youngsters had “bedazzled ” the sidewalks in front of Starbucks. People heard about it and came to look at their sidewalk gallery. If the weather is nice next Wednesday, she’s going to bring sidewalk chalk to Starbucks again. And she’ll have my Starbucks card to get herself something to drink. 🙂
I think Moz would be happy about the Starbucks card – I can imagine her smiling.
I pick up your mail at the retirement inn –
it still comes there nearly two years after
your passing – almost entirely requests
from charities – veterans, environmental
groups, help for homeless people and
animals – and I see your name on the
envelopes and remember your generous
heart and I smile. As I get in the car I glance
back to the balcony where you used to wave
good bye to me and I feel a tug on my heart.
You’re still there. I can see you clearly, smiling
your love at me from the second floor.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell