Tributes by the Children
I Celebrate My Mother
By Ann Marie Albury (daughter), May 10, 2015
Today I celebrate my mother. As the world celebrates Mother’s Day through all the hyped commercialization that for me obliterates the true value of our constant appreciate for our mothers…..I, as I have always done, choose to celebrate through the simple things, a lifetime of consistent thoughts and gestures that showed the depth of our love for each other.
Sleep evaded me last night as I cried, smiled and even laughed as I reminisced on the gift of the Mother that God orchestrated for my siblings and me to share. Mary Elizabeth Catalyn Brennen was not an ordinary woman, a limited edition indeed!
For the first time, since her death I sit and write my tribute to a woman worthy of praise--my mother!
Her Heart: The love that she showed us as children and adults was unfathomably extraordinary. Her love was exemplary to the love she believed from God. She accepted the promise of His abiding presence in all our lives even when we fall and hurt ourselves. As a mother she demonstrated this love as she remained beside us when we fell, picked us up if necessary, carried us when necessary, cried when we cried, and if possible tried to heal us. As the truth of God’s love in his promise; he promised that he will be with us always-so was my mother and the love she offered.
Her Mind: She was intelligent and as a mother, a teacher in the classroom or an administrator, you knew she would have all her facts together, and if she did not know she showed how by example to find them, through research. She often told us of her mother, our grandmother, whom we came to know, was not educated, however, her mother made sure her children, (my mom and uncles) received the opportunities that she was not afforded. My mother knew that even though she received far more than her mother did, she was willing to sacrifice even more for her children to go further than she did. We were going to go to college.
This seed of possibility and preparation became a reality as Mommy embraced the idea that she had to nurture not only the hearts of her children but also their minds. The avenue she sought to do this was through encouraging us to read, read, read. I can remember so vividly, receiving $2 or $3 every Friday most of the times or sometimes alternative weeks; to walk to United Book Store in Palmdale, or The Christian Book Store on Shirley Street to purchase a book to read for that week. My siblings and I would walk there with great excitement in our hearts because we too had accepted her premise that once you can read there are no limits to where you can go and who you can become. Even in our adulthood, we remain avid readers. The feeling of anticipation and excitement that I got then when I bought a new book, remains with me today as I seek to enlighten my mind with so much about the world around me. Wherever I go around the world I feel like a child in a candy store when I enter a bookstore and now experience it through the world of technology-Kindle. A student asked me last week, “Ms Albury, how many new books are you reading now? Every class you refer to a new title you are reading.” This was lovingly nurtured by my mother.
Another extraordinary opportunity my mother gave me was to have pen pals. Before I went to college I had “visited” more than 50 countries around the world through corresponding with people from places like, Malaysia, Nigeria, Uganda, Philippines, Australia, New Zealand and many, many other places. She encouraged us to frequently write our pen pals and to this day I often wonder how she afforded all those stamps. But through this experience she fostered I came to appreciate the art of writing, but more importantly, the diversity of people and cultures that touched my life through correspondence.
Her Hands: Mary Elizabeth was a talented, creative mother. She was the family seamstress and taught us all how to sew. She never, never accepted mediocre work from us. It could look right to you, but if it was not done in the correct manner, be assured you were going to pull out every stitch and start all over again. We had no surges to complete finishing work on the inside of the garment, but my mother taught us how to do finished work all the same in her unconventional style. Every dress, blouse, and skirt that I wore while attending college was sewn by me under the tutelage of my mother. My mother taught me how to be proud of anything my hands created with the principle that the product will be a reflection of who I am…my character.
I can also remember all of us assisting her in making many charts for the classroom, and activities for her children to learn math. Nothing was bought from the store for the classroom. Everything was handmade. She did not like idle hands, so we often made crafts at home during summer months to constructively occupy our time.
Her culinary skills, especially as a vegetarian cook, was phenomenal. As the smallest and youngest of the crew, and due to childhood illness, I was the chosen vessel to remain by my mother’s side, and of course that meant a lot of hours in the kitchen. The knowledge and love for cooking and entertaining came from mommy’s exemplary modeling of this art. We would cook, and cook. Many, invited and uninvited came by our home to eat at our dinner table.
Her Smile & Laugh: My mother had a beautiful smile that she wore hourly. She was always spirited and cheerful. There was always music in her voice as she greeted people. And oh, to hear her really laugh! What joy! She was not an actor or playwright like her brother, James Catalyn, who made many laugh through his plays. However, I can assure you, the stage she had within immediate reach-home, school or church-she could execute a good prank, or do something creative in her presentations/lessons to bring everyone present alive.
Her Faithfulness: My mother demonstrated faithfulness to us literally every day. She was as constant as the North Star. In earlier years, with growing children on our own, we all knew we did not have to cook on Thursdays. Mommy would cook the biggest pot of soup, be it pumpkin, okra, lentil, or pigeon pea soup with dumpling. We knew there would be enough for all to have a “belly full.” Her devotion to her children, grandchildren and friends, in her senior years; with her limited mobility transitioned to her telephone calls. She called every day, sometimes twice a day. She found herself in a place where she could not do for us as she would have in her earlier days. Thus, she elevated her presence and encouragement through words and the use of the telephone. I cannot express what strength this gave me during my very dark days in a valley in my life.
Her Graciousness: Mommy, for me, was the epitome of graciousness. Her kindness and warm courtesy and ability to welcome everyone, even strangers with this spirit was a gift. She was also very frank with her words but with the smoothest tact and propriety. She acquired the art also of responding to any insult with gracious humor. Many can speak of her stern but merciful and compassionate spirit. The crowning of this spirit that I witnessed over and over was her elegance and good taste, especially in her choice of words. The text we often heard her quote: “Words fitly spoke are like apples of gold and pictures of silver.” During Mommy’s illness I witnessed this spirit remain, in spite of her pain and discomfort. I recall one day the caregiver handed my father the tray with the food to feed her. He sat in the chair next to Mommy’s bed making ready to feed her. Napkin in place, food in spoon, Daddy proceeded to put the spoon to her mouth. However, my mother looked and looked; a look that we know brings forth wisdom and chastisement. Finally she spoke looking directly at my father: “You did not tell her thank you!” Although her mind was beginning to be touched by the ravages of Alzheimer’s, she did not forget the simple courtesies of her lifetime. I witnessed this consistently throughout her ailing days, no matter what was done for her she would echo, “Thank you,” “That’s so kind of you” She was gracious up to her death.
Mommy is not here today, and although my heart is sad because I miss her so much, it is filled with enormous gratitude. There are so many gifts she gave me. But one of the greatest is not anything that I can do with my hands, but rather with my heart. Mommy always looked for and saw the best in any situation or person. She taught me the value of touching another life, leaving them a better person because of our encounter and the value of seeking life’s lessons….those lessons to be learned from it. This has become my life’s mantra. May my love, all that I can accomplish with my hands and my mind, my faithfulness, my sense of humor, and my graciousness touch as many lives as my mother. In essences she taught me unconditional love and acceptance.
Mommy offered all she had within. She gave all of herself to teach us as a mother and she completed her task with distinction to the very, very end. Mommy knew of my love and appreciation for her. I never failed to tell her, “I love you!” And although today I can no longer say it for her to hear, her love remains within my heart and my spirit.
My Dearest Mother and Me
By Barrington H. Brennen (son), January 14, 2015
I dedicate this column to my dearest Mother, Mary Elizabeth Catalyn
Brennen who died on
January 7, 2015, at the age of 86. She impacted my life greatly. As
an educator, she also influenced and molded the lives of countless