The newspaper didn’t say much about her. It listed visitation times and the year she was born.
It could’ve said more.
It could’ve said that she was a single mother who worked three jobs sometimes. Or that she never missed work.
She’d been a receptionist, a cashier, a waitress, a factory employee, a custodian, a disciplinarian. She’d cleaned houses for cash under the table.
She was above nothing, below no one.
Her skin was dry from too much smoke and caffeine. He hair was wiry. She was beauty wrapped in service uniforms.
There are pictures. Black-and-whites photos of a slender teenage girl who became a mother of three.
A photograph: she’s bouncing a child on her hip, holding the hand of her oldest. She’s wearing a fast food visor.
Another: she’s sitting in a miniature train, it’s Christmas, a baby in her lap. Two older kids are in the picture. Her hair practically screams 1970’s.
That photo was taken just before her husband died.
Her kids don’t remember him. They don’t remember the hell she endured after him.
All they recall is her. Her, standing before a closed casket. Her, pumping hands with a hundred wearing black.
The night they laid him in the earth, the kids slept, but she didn’t. She was up all night, staring at her checkbook register.
She must’ve burned through half a carton, worrying herself.
Before his body was cold, she hustled a job for herself. She walked into a car dealership and begged. They gave her work. She answered phones, made coffee, cleaned toilets, mopped the showroom floor.
It didn’t pay well, so she took babysitting gigs. She worked at a grocery store. She waited tables at a restaurant. She put together CB radio circuit boards on an assembly line. She sewed women’s clothes.
She put her son through college. She bought braces for her daughter. She pieced money together from dry air.
Her daughter got pregnant at seventeen. The girl’s boyfriend bolted for parts unknown. She raised her granddaughter and still found cash for her daughter’s X-ray tech school.
Her youngest joined law enforcement. Her oldest is a contractor.
She was special. The photos on her sofa tables are the mosaic of an American family that almost drowned, but didn’t.
I come from a family like this.
Her funeral was not well attended. She didn’t have time for friendships during life. She wasn’t a churchgoer, a country club member, or a PTA mother. She was rough hands, high morals, and low on sleep since 1972.
You ought to see her family. They are beautiful. When they say her name, they remember the best person they ever knew. The one who taught them to be a human being.
I never met her, but I know her. I was raised by her.
These aren’t women. Not really. They are from another realm. They come to us wearing scrubs, Walmart vests, or food service uniforms. They might not look like much, but to some of us, they are proof that there is a heaven.
They will spend their lives on children. When their family is grown, they will raise their children’s children. And at the end of the race, all they get in return are a few lines in the obituary section.
Well. Not if I can help it.
Rest, Miss Jenny.
And God bless single mothers.
Cathi - January 23, 2018 8:44 am
Sean, you are divinely appointed to be doing what you’re doing. God loves you and so do I.
Glenda Hulbert - January 24, 2018 12:13 am
Oh guy, ya got me on this one, tears. Been sitting here silent just reading for a couple of weeks and yeah you got me.
wendy - January 23, 2018 9:06 am
I was blessed to have to have both loving parents, but this reminds me of something my mother used to say. My instructions for my weekly 25 cents allowance were to give 5 cents in Sunday School, 10 cents in church, & the rest on whatever I wanted (usually a comic book). She knew that 10 cents wouldn’t go far for a gift so she’d say, “Every day should be Mother’s Day.” I’ve often thought how important – even profound – that was & I’ve passed it along to my children.
I believe Miss Jenny taught her children the same. With meager means & very hard work, she was able to raise 3 loving & appreciative children who surely call her blessed. Proverbs 31
Steven P Bailey - January 23, 2018 10:51 am
janiesjottings - January 23, 2018 12:07 pm
I am babysitting a 17 month old boy who’s mom works 2 jobs/7days a week & is taking online college courses. As a single mom her focus is on keeping a roof over her child’s head and making a better future for him. She is my hero. Thank you for telling this story. These kinds of mom’s are blessings to their children and the world.
Steve Scott - January 23, 2018 12:10 pm
A heartwarming story (as always). I love your writing and would like to meet you someday, possibly during a trip to my hometown of Fairhope. Please let me know if that would be possible. I will buy you a beer or lunch, or just meet you at the gas station. Sincerely, Steve Scott
Connie - January 23, 2018 12:17 pm
As a single woman who has raised her granddaughter alone, I can’t thank you enough for seeing us all. Not that I, or any single parent, does this for recognition. My life is a blessing. When I look at my child, all I see is love. I hope that when I’m gone, my kids remember me with the same love. I’m not perfect. We’ve done without, and will again I’m sure, but we are blessed. Love and hugs.
Elaine McNabb - January 23, 2018 2:38 pm
Thank you Sean, I come from a family like this one too.
Deena - January 23, 2018 2:41 pm
I know that her family will appreciate your giving their Mother the respect you have shown her here. God bless you.sean, and please keep writing.
Tina Abernathy - January 23, 2018 2:44 pm
THIS is what all the “nasty women” are missing…THIS is being a woman!!! Love, Daughter Of A Working Mother
Larry Blumen - January 23, 2018 2:46 pm
theholtgirls - January 23, 2018 2:48 pm
Miss Jenny and Miss Connie, I don’t know you, but I love you.
Jack Quanstrum - January 23, 2018 3:25 pm
Amen! Life is tough!
Barbara Schweck - January 23, 2018 4:20 pm
This woman is a true hero. I work with young ladies whose moms decided to leave their children when it got so tough. These girls are bounced from place to place just to have a roof over their head. The effects are so sad. I know that Miss Jenny is resting well in the arms of our Lord and that her children know and understand the sacrifices that she made for them and will carry on the legacy that she left them.
Jan - January 23, 2018 4:37 pm
God bless single mothers (and single dads)! God bless those who see them, truly see them and recognize their worth. Single parents are often those who fade into the background of life for most of us. (Unless you have experienced it yourself) Only their children and those with a keen eye focused on the “background people” acknowledge their value and contributions!
Jack Darnell - January 23, 2018 5:29 pm
I know her also my friend, not as well as you, but I do know her!
Pamela McEachern - January 23, 2018 6:27 pm
God Bless these Special Angels?
Peace and Love from Birmingham
Gloria Wethington - January 23, 2018 9:46 pm
God bless you, Sean, for your compassion and for “helping it”!
Cheri - January 23, 2018 10:42 pm
Such a nice tribute:) Condolences to you:)
jnearen - January 23, 2018 11:30 pm
She pieced money together from dry air. Inspired.
Judith - January 24, 2018 4:52 am
My mama too. She’s still here for now. The rest though could be her story. Smartest lady I have ever known. A different time, a different era…she could have been a design engineer. Love her.
Bob Hubbard - January 25, 2018 2:08 am
And all God’s children said amen and amen..
Sandra Smith - January 26, 2018 10:49 am
Raised by a single Mom, who, literally gave her life (at 46) to raise my sister and I, this one got me !
Rick Gordanier - January 27, 2018 5:29 am
Thank you Sean, from a single father.
Lucretia - January 27, 2018 8:35 am
yes, God bless single mothers and may we never forget them.
Dana Stockli - February 20, 2018 12:30 am
Never stop writing, Sean… you’re making a lot of us every day people feel awfully special 🙂
Marie wilson - April 16, 2018 12:33 pm
This is a wonderful tribute to a beautiful person.
Melissa Mikkelsen - April 17, 2018 2:08 am
God bless you too Sean. Thank you for seeing us.