Mothering Mended

It’s not easy to trace the tears,
the gaping holes where mothering
went wrong.
I can point to the withering look
that day at the dinner table
when I took my father’s attention.
Or maybe the stoney face
accusing me of losing something precious,
my protests unheard.
Or the subtle manipulations;
the distaste for what I wore,
the way I looked, laughed, talked.
I saw you coming to the front door,
and my heart panicked.
And yet, there was love,
and good times too.
You cutting up an apple for me
as we shared an evening snack,
or our walks along the beach:
the picture I have of you
trying to pick up a piece of driftwood
that you could never lift.
But I couldn’t trust you,
I never knew when you would turn.
I eventually walked out of that room
where mother was judge and jury.

Duty brought me back, not love.
When you had to come to me,
I had to let you in.
And in those final dependent years,
something shifted.
Was it power (yours? mine?)
or was it the pills they gave you,
at long last an answer
to undiagnosed mental illness? 
No matter, for suddenly
there was a new language
of affection and appreciation,
so longed for, never before received.
You had the happy blessing of remembering
only pleasantries from our shared history.
I moved forward, trying not to look back.

At the end, you reached the shore alone
but I would have wanted to be there.
I only give thanks now for mothering
mended against all odds,
and the gift of bereavement.

New Book Coming Soon!

Carol Penner has written a devotional book for Lent that explores the challenges of repentance and forgiveness. Forty reflections and prayers to deepen your walk with God as you prepare for Easter.  

You can order it here!

About Carol Penner

I am a Mennonite pastor currently teaching theology at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ontario. I’ve served congregations in Ontario and most recently, Alberta.

I love to write and to lead worship! If you are finding my writing helpful, I would love to hear from you! Feel free to use or adapt the material here, it is all written by me. If printing material, please credit “Copyright Carol Penner” (and say whether you modified it). If publishing, please contact me for permission. Contact me at

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