Tribute to My Beautiful Mother

Today I was working on cleaning up my inbox in my personal email.  As my eyes scanned to the bottom of the list of “priority” emails, an area toward the bottom, metaphorically dusty and littered with various articles and links filed in my mind in the “I’ll-get-to-these-later” category, my mouse scanned across one particular message.  And suddenly there it was: the warm, colorful, smiling profile photo of my mom.

A few Fridays ago on April 21st, 2017, my beautiful mom passed away at age 74.  For around 14 months my mom, along with the enduring and vigilant support of my dad, had been battling cervical cancer.  As I write this post, I still struggle to believe the very words I just wrote: my mom passed away.  You see, my mom’s spirit was so large, so inclusive, so inspirational, so loving, that it seems impossible she will no longer inhabit this earth alongside my father, her family, her precious granddaughters, her friends, her dogs…or me.  Mom was the living, breathing embodiment of life-giving generosity.  She demonstrated unparallelled integrity, self-reliance, humility, and kindness.  How can she be gone?

My mom’s life journey resembled a sacred mission.  Confidently and actively she always reached out to all those she could touch, laying upon them a kind of nurturing, loving, and sage guidance that truly only she could muster.  I remember recently riding in the car with her, sitting in the passenger’s seat.  At my feet were several granola bars taped to water bottles.  “What are these?” I asked.  “Oh, those are for the homeless,” she nonchalantly replied.  Ah, the ones standing on the street corners at the traffic lights, yes.  I knew who she meant.

That’s the kind of person my mother was, right to the very end of her life– an advocate for those who needed a hand up (I’ve written about her before) and a person of unwavering gracious deportment.  One of my final memories of Mom was when she, while lying in hospice care, gently took her ICU doctor’s hand between her own, tilted her head as she was wont to do, and hoarsely uttered the words, “Thank you for your work.”

Always a kind word.  Always a generous acknowledgement. Always a gracious gesture.

And so, the journey begins, the first reluctant steps into a life without my mom.  And, as a friend commented the other night, the silence is stunning.

I suppose I might add, since this blog is dedicated to supporting young readers and writers at home, that writing about my mom is something I plan to do.  Writing is one important way we can hang onto not only moments we’ve lived, but people we’ve loved and people we’ve lost.  People who meant so much to us. Like Mom.

As for my inbox, I don’t think I’ll be cleaning out emails from my beautiful mom anytime soon.  For now, each remnant of her humanity holds priceless value.  I love you, Mom.  Thank you for being so amazing.


Dedicated to Donna Rae Callaway Ball, 1942-2017

Author: Lanny Ball

For more than 29 years, Lanny has taught, coached, presented, staff developed, and consulted within the exciting and enigmatic world of literacy. With unyielding passion and belief in the possibility of workshop teaching, Lanny has worked to support students, teachers, and school administrators around the country in outgrowing themselves as both writers and readers. Working first as a classroom teacher, then as a coach and TCRWP Staff Developer, Lanny is now a literacy specialist, working and living in the great state of Connecticut. Outside of literacy, he enjoys raising his three ambitious young daughters with his wife, and playing the piano. Find him on this blog, as well as on Twitter @LannyBall. Lanny is also a former co-author of a blog dedicated to supporting writing teachers and coaches that maintain classroom writing workshops,

18 thoughts on “Tribute to My Beautiful Mother”

  1. Dear Lanny, I met your mom Donna when we were in grade school together in Athena and our lives paralleled each other through graduation in 1959 (mine). My senior year, the two of us edited the school newspaper, me as editor and she as assistant editor and editor to be. We spent Saturdays, once a month, literally cutting and pasting the various articles of the Highlander into copy-ready form and then took it to the Athena Press for printing, after which it was distributed to fellow McEwenites. Your mom was so bright and easy to be with that we formed a friendship that we renewed many years later, when several of us McEwen grads decided to start meeting for sleepovers and occasional lunches, just to stay in contact after other members of our classes died. We had a goofy softball game in Pendleton to raise money for the little boy of another Donna’s daughter. We listened to each others’ lives, sympathized, sang together (Donna had such a beautiful voice and she and I sang Joni Mitchell’s “Circle Game” together once, harmonizing a cappella, in the living room of another friend, Judy Kliesh.) Such wonderful memories, never to be forgotten.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was so lucky to spend a part of my life with your Mom. Circumstances and distance can separate friends, but there will always be a piece of Donna Ball in my heart. She was the embodiment of a teacher. Patient, attentive and persistent. Always persistent. Who gives a hand up for students seeking a second chance for 43 years? Your Mom, that’s who. We laughed together, we cried together, and we taught together. That’s as good as it gets in this world and that is pretty damn good. Yes there is silence and a huge void, but, for me, that is followed by your mom’s musical laughter and I remember her generous spirit and smile.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lanny, we who were connected to your mom were so blessed to live life with her and to be inspired by her. She loved so well and really modeled acceptance and generosity of spirit. As a teacher she had such a gentle non-authoritarian way of managing and motivating her students. Tears flow as I read your words . . . and chuckles follow. She was disarming. She didn’t mince words. She impacted so many lives. I’ll always love her.


  4. Lanny, I’m sorry to hear about your mom. My dad has been gone for a few years now, I still miss him terribly. My dad would talk about all the fun he and Donna had together when they were kids. All my love , Sherri

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Beautifully written Lanny. Your mother continues to be in my thoughts throughout my days. I know it is harder for you. I loved your mother dearly, a special friend, an incredible woman.


  6. Hi Lanny,
    So sorry for your loss, thanks for sharing this moving tribute. Take care Bro – and I hope our paths on this earth converge again, sooner than later.


  7. Lanny,
    I’m so sorry to hear about your Mom. I will never forget the first time I saw her at Clear Creek when she reminded me that I was the only girl who was invited to your first Birthday party. It was so great to remember some of our grade school memories. She was such a wonderful person. I’m so thankful to have known her. Words cannot express my sorrow for your loss.
    Vicki Auborn Cox

    Liked by 1 person

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