Cherokee Scout Publisher David Brown and his daughter Jessica (left) with grandma Robby Lee Wernersback and mom Cathy Davis.

DAVID BROWN: Spending first Mother's Day without mom

   When I was growing up, if other kids wanted to pick on someone, one of their choicest insults was to call them a “momma’s boy.” Clean your room and mow the lawn without being asked? Go home on time and refuse to break curfew? Well, then, you must be a momma’s boy. (Cue laughter.)
    I’m not afraid to admit, proudly, that I’m a “momma’s boy.” That’s in part because I’ve never met my biological father, and the stepfather whose last name I carry drank himself to death. But, more importantly, it’s because I was raised by two wonderful women who had my love and respect, and as a result I did my very best to make them happy.
    Mother’s Day is Sunday, and for 51 years I’ve looked forward to it as another way to tell my mom and grandma how much they mean to me, how I owe everything I am to them. This year is much different, however. How do you celebrate Mother’s Day when both your mommas have left this world?
    Catherine Elizabeth Stroh Davis is my mom, though you would have known her as Cathy Hallgren when we lived in Murphy in the early 1980s. She was only 67 when her time came on Feb. 15. Years of cigarette smoking took a heavy toll on her lungs, leaving her no longer able to breathe. Watching her struggle for her next breath, with as much dignity as grace as she could muster, over four months in a convalescent center was the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.
    Robby Lee Edwards Wernersback is my grandma, the matriarch of our family, quite simply the most unselfish person I’ve ever known. She was 94 when God called her home on April 7 after living a full and noble life. She never had riches on Earth, but she sure enough stored up a lifetime of treasures in heaven.
    My mom was the fun one, the person all of my family and friends enjoyed being around, which is why our house was the neighborhood hangout. I so want to listen to live music and laugh with her again, while raising a glass in celebration.
    My grandma was the rock, the person you could count on no matter what, who always had just what you needed – a hug, kind word or delicious meal – ready on call. I’d give anything to hear her call me her “baby boy” just one more time.
    Together, they more than made up for my lack of a father figure while growing up. But now they’re gone.
    Not really, I know – to borrow a phrase from my friend Jack Montgomery of Ogreeta, “They’re not dead, they’ve just changed,” moving on from this world with the promise of a new, unbroken body in the next one. Still, knowing the holiday is approaching can’t help but make my world seem a lot emptier this year.
    Sadly, I won’t be alone in dealing with loss this Mother’s Day. So I called licensed counselor Mary Ricketson of Murphy for wisdom, and she was gracious to share two simple things folks like me can do to help fill that hole in our hearts.
    * Remember them out loud. Don’t ignore their absence, but instead talk about them, share stories and laugh, especially with younger family members. Our loved ones live on through our memories, so generously share them.
    * Honor other moms. There may be an older woman who is special to you. Maybe there’s another mom you admire. Take the positive energy you have on Mother’s Day – or any of the firsts that happen in the year after someone moves on – and spread that love to others.
    “By doing so,” Ricketson said in her sweet voice, “you also will be helping make the world a better place.”
    Amen to that. To all the “mommas” who bring love and light to your families, Happy Mother’s Day. And to everyone else, hold yours tight. You never know if you’ll have another chance.
    David Brown is publisher of the Cherokee Scout. You can reach him by phone, 837-5122; fax, 837-5832; and email, dbrown@cherokeescout.com; plus follow him on Twitter @daviddBstroh.