Mother’s Day: Bitterness Turned to Joy by Sarah Norkus

Mother’s Day is a joyous day for me. But there was a time when it was bittersweet.

So very sweet when I became a mother for the first time forty years ago. And sweet again when my second daughter was born three years later. The joys of motherhood know no boundaries. Your cup is full to the brim with amazing joy that you believe will never be exceeded… and then it overflows. The joy of that first smile as they gaze into your eyes as an infant, that can never be surpassed, but is, by the first utterance of “mama.”

The sweetness of all those homemade mother’s day cards. The first card, made from yellow construction paper, lovingly drawn with squiggles and lines. The next year, drawn with crayons, depicting my huge head and stick body on the green construction paper. As each girl entered Kindergarten, the cards changed to white paper, folded in half with colorful flowers on the front and “Happy Mother’s Day’ in carefully written block letters on the inside page. All too soon the homemade cards were replaced with store bought cards. But the sentiment was the same and my heart knew no difference. I still cherish every card.

But for a time, Mother’s Day was also bitter. My mother ‘checked out’ when I was four. The depression was too much and she turned to pills and alcohol. Three years later, my father hired a nanny and left my mother. There were no loving hugs and kisses that I so desperately craved from my mommy. Only a desperately unhappy woman who barked orders like a drill sergeant. At eleven, I gave my life over to Christ and my mother drove me, while under the influence, to the six classes required before I could be baptized in front of the church. She was a strong Christian, but the depression was stronger. She died the summer I was baptized. She fell down the stairs while intoxicated.

The anger and bitterness were a stone in my heart for the next few years, but when I was twenty, something amazing happened. The date was June 20th, my mother’s birthday. I lay on my bed, darkness surrounding me, thinking about her. I was frustrated, angry, because she could never give me answers to the questions I desperately needed to ask. Suddenly goose bumps pimpled my arms. My eyes were drawn upward of their own accord and I felt…something. Unexpectedly, a thought infused my mind and I knew what I needed to do. I whispered,“ I love you mom… and I forgive you.” The stone left my heart, replaced by the God given peace that passes all understanding. What do I think happened? I will never know for sure, but I believe Jesus sat on the bed with me that long ago night forty years ago, five days after the birth of my first child.

SarahNorkusSarah Norkus was born in Columbus, Ohio, but spent her formative years in Lexington, Ky. At the young age of 18, she married Michael Norkus, who retired as a major in the US Army after 24 years of service. Sally and Mike now live in Virginia, and have two married children, and six grandchildren. She says that writing is in her blood. Her father was the editor of a horse racing magazine and her cousin, Stephen Ambrose, wrote Band of Brothers. and other books on military history.

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