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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Mothers (05/02/05)

TITLE: If Not the Rose Itself
By Sally Hanan


My father was dying of cancer, and I wanted to write something special that he could read while he was still fully cognizant. His affection, his gentleness and his loyalty had all been a huge part of my life. Writing a tribute to him was the perfect gift of thanks and had translated easily from mind to paper. Sitting down to write to my widowed mother was another matter entirely.

The prompting for repeating this exercise for Mom was due, in part, to my own daughter’s letters to me. Ever since she had learned how to write she would fill pages with thanks, praise, drawings and plenty of hugs and kisses. God planted her like a rose bush seed in the ground, and we watched His rain and His sunshine nurture her until she began producing the beautiful flowers God plucks daily- to give to us. I couldn’t remember ever wanting to give my mother anything like that; no, there was no loveliness or sweet aroma for that mother. I remained the seed, unwilling to germinate, with a rock hard protective shell. I had spent too much of my life living under the soil harboring an emotion close to hatred.

Underneath the layer of hatred was anger.
Under the layer of anger was pain-
lots and lots of pain.

I wanted her to have at least one of the roses I had been given. I wanted her to know that I did care- in spite of all of my historical and repetitive snakelike actions- poised and ready to strike, followed by the lunge and deadly bite of my venom.

I made the time for her one day, and as I prayed over what to say the Holy Spirit flooded me, giving me peace and comfort. I understand, He whispered to my heart, and then my mind filled with His inspirational thoughts about the direction to take the letter in. It wasn’t a tribute, but God knew exactly what she needed to hear.

Dear Mom,

Thank-you for everything you have ever done for me.

Thank-you for staying at home to raise me. Thank-you for keeping house, getting up every day to get me ready for school, cooking me meals, and packing me lunches.

Thank-you for taking my brother and me on holidays with you and Dad, when you would have had a better time leaving us at home.

Thank-you for all the driving you did every day of the week to get us to dancing and music classes. Thank-you for coming to many of my sports games, even though I wasn’t very good at sports.

Thank-you for the financial sacrifices you made to ensure we would get a good education in private schools.

I’m sorry for being so ungrateful and critical most of the time I was at home.


I waited for many weeks after sending it in the hopes that that perhaps the scent, if not the rose itself would have formed a peephole in the walls between us, but eventually I gave up. I assumed that in my mother’s heart nothing had happened, and judged her to be the same unfeeling brick wall I had always critiqued her to be. The lifelong hopelessness simply returned like a familiar but unwanted friend.

Strangely enough, even though my heart should have stayed just as rigid, the writing of the letter softened me. My outer shell cracked, and gratitude, like fresh rain, seeped in. My deepest parts reached upward for the sunlight, allowing His light to reach into my darkness. My apology humbled me enough to allow the Lord to remove all of the loathing, along with some of the anger and pain. My arms unfurled and stretched in a dancing breezy freedom I had never known. I laughed easily in God’s flowerbed.

About two years later I was talking to my sister about Mom, and I happened to mention that I had written a letter to thank her for the things she had done for us. It was well known in our family that Mom and I persistently rubbed each other the wrong way, so I suppose I wanted some sort of recognition for the fact that I was trying.

My sister’s head cocked to one side as if a sudden memory hit her.

“Oh yes, I remember that. We were in the kitchen and Mom said that you had sent her something very sweet. She got out your letter and read it to me, and she was crying the whole time……”

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This article has been read 1173 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Amy Michelle Wiley 05/09/05
I like the analogy of the roses.
Dixie Phillips05/09/05
Your story was so amazing! You've experienced an inner healing through your story that even Dr. Phil couldn't have done. And I'm sure our wise Heavenly Father will get it into the hands of just those who need healing, too. Beautiful!
Lynda Lee Schab 05/10/05
It's amazing how simply allowing ourselves to express our hurts enables us to let them go. I'm sure it meant a lot to you to know how your mom reacted to your letter.
God did a great work in your heart. Thanks for sharing it with us.
Blessings, Lynda
Joanne Malley05/13/05
Beautifully written.You purged your feelings on paper with such sensitivity. It's wonderful that the Great Physician can heal the deepest hurts.
Kathy Cartee05/13/05
I can relate to this havong experienced much the same thing with my Mother in- law.

Suzanne R05/13/05
I too liked the analogy of the rose. I also am very impressed at your use of bold and italics, and that short punchy bit (with bold and italics) about the pain. That really draws the reader's attention. Well done. This is beautiful.
Cheri Hardaway 05/15/05
I have experienced this with a couple of family members, and freedom is wonderful! Thanks for sharing your journey with us! God's ways are so much better than our own, aren't they?
Val Clark05/16/05
A story many can identify with. Sounds like your character and I have/had similar 'motherng issues'. This story appeals to me because you've avoided being overly sentimental: even though your character has been obedient that doesn't mean that everything will necessaril be great between her and her mother.
Deborah Porter 05/16/05
Sally, this is an excellent piece of writing. Hits the heart, but in a very real and powerful way. Well done. This line really jumped out at me, "even though my heart should have stayed just as rigid, the writing of the letter softened me." Amazing how the act of writing like this does often aid the healing. Also, just wanted to let you know that you were in the semi-finals on a very competitive week. So give yourself a pat on the back. With love, Deb
Debbie OConnor05/16/05
Great entry Sally. You are a very powerful writer. I felt every line.