Helen had a rough start. Her mother was terribly unkind to her, abusing her regularly with scorn and ridicule. Some of the stories from her childhood are simply too hurtful to print here. Helen was so eager to escape from her angry mother that she, while still very young, married a man she didn’t love. She was desperate to get away.
It was a hard life. Money was tight, and her marriage was difficult. But Helen was determined not to repeat her mother’s unkindness. Somehow, despite extraordinarily difficult circumstances, she showered tenderness on her little daughter Bonnie. In the midst of her own heartaches, Helen was a gentle and loving mother to her girl.
Bonnie learned from her Helen’s example and became the same kind of mother to her own daughter, Cathy.
Cathy did the same. She grew up to be a loving and affirming mother to her daughter…
Helen was my great-grandmother–my mother’s mother’s mother. Though I’ve known her life story for years, it’s only since becoming a mother myself that I’ve been able to appreciate her courage. I know how hard it is in the trenches of motherhood even when I’ve had gentle, kind motherhood modeled to me my whole life. I can’t imagine how much gumption it took for Helen to reach deep into her heart and find her own way into motherhood, breaking the hurtful cycle she’d seen for so many years.
I think of her today. I wish she could know how important her spot is in my family tree–the "branch" where a courageous woman chose to love her children well. I can’t tell her that, of course–she’s been gone for many years. But I can love my daughter the way the women in my family have for decades, and I can teach Corrie the kind of tenderness that will serve her own children well someday.
It’s my gift to Corrie. And it’s my tribute to Helen.