Kenneth L. Hardin: Happy Mother’s Day to all of my moms

by 24britishtvMay 12, 2024, 3 p.m. 23
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This will be the first Mother’s Day without my biological mama. Sadly, she died the day after Thanksgiving last year. It won’t be that much different in the celebratory sense because we didn’t have that kind of relationship. I didn’t subscribe to the insincere common practice of trying to prove to others, who don’t matter, that I could overdose her with fraudulent tokens of affection in a solitary day of trying to prove how special she was. For that one single day, sons and husbands, who have failed at showing respect and appreciation the previous 364 days, try to make amends in one 24-hour period. I see no point in that kind of forced mass consumerism and would much rather show my feelings other than when society determines we should honor them. If you’re a fan of KFC, you better get it Saturday night because Mother’s Day is when they sell most of the yardbirds. Nothing says I love you mom like a 12-piece bucket of fried Gallus Gallus Domesticus.

I didn’t attend my mother’s funeral, but it had nothing to do with my relationship with her. I shed many tears at her bedside that evening as she lay struggling to maintain consciousness and lucidity, unaware she was drawing closer to her final breath. I made my peace with her at that moment and said my goodbye as I remained in the room watching the nursing staff administer drugs into her IV that would erase her from reality and make her a memory. I was criticized and received condemnation from some whose opinion of my decision mattered little to nothing. My mother was a proud and private woman who always wanted to present herself as the embodiment of class and sophistication. At times, her commitment to ensuring that she and our family were seen as something to be enviable clashed with my aversion to materialism and lack of concern for other people’s perceptions. As I sat in the hospital room with her two months before she left us, I adhered to her requests to help look perfect for visitors and make sure the room was set up in a comfortable and inviting way. She said several times to me and others in my family that she did not want a funeral. She was expressly clear that her vanity would extend beyond this realm and into her introduction into the next one. Sadly, there were family members who ignored this and turned her end-of-life request into what I felt was a spectacle to satisfy their egos and desire for attention. I simply chose not to be a part of that sideshow and opted to spend the time hosting and serving a free meal to less fortunate others in the community.

This new disregard brought back similar hurt feelings I held from 1999, when my beloved paternal grandmother died and her end-of-life requests were not honored either. A new pastor at her home church, Soldier’s Memorial AME Zion, where she was a faithful servant for decades until her health declined, didn’t know her, and demanded her family “catch up her tithes” so she could be in good standing before the service. She had wanted a family friend and a much-loved female pastor to deliver her eulogy, but he overrode the decision and conducted the funeral himself. I recall sitting in the pew at her service angry and saddened with family members telling me not to confront this jack-legged shyster in the pulpit. We need to respect the dying’s last wishes and honor what they wanted instead of making it about our own selfish egos.

All a child of any age wants to feel is that they’re loved, appreciated and that a parental figure is proud of them. Sadly, too many of our parents are ill equipped to offer this and substitute it with material offerings, friendship and even allowing the streets to provide sustenance. I’m fortunate to have many other mothers in my life, who have taken up the mantle and treated me like a surrogate son. My mother-in-law, Vera Wiggins, and my mom’s sister, “Aunt-Mama” Catherine Stewart, have always been there, providing me with love, inspiration and letting me know how proud they are of me in my mother’s absence. They offer the old-school approach to parenting that extends to kids in the community who they didn’t give birth to. They understand each child in the community belongs to everyone, unlike today where you face tongue lashing and physical assault if you correct any child who is not your own. These remarkable mamas sustain me in their own ways with how they’ve treated me. I’m so appreciative this Mother’s Day to have one mom in Heaven and two here looking out for me. I won’t shower them with trinkets and tokens, but I will let them know I love them.

Kenneth L. (Kenny) Hardin is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists.

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