The Lanyard
The Lanyard

Many of you know that I used to work with Martha Stewart.  During the time that I was at the company, I heard Martha recite a poem by US Poet Laureate Billy Collins on three different occasions.   Each and every time, she choked up a little…and I did, too.

THE LANYARD by Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

Me and Mom
Me and Mom

After a certain age (some of us reach this milestone later than others), it becomes overwhelmingly clear that there is no gift that we can give mom that anyway repays her for the gifts she gave us.  Perhaps it is this perpetual indebtedness that begs us to keep trying and that necessitates a holiday called Mother’s Day.

I think about the crayon drawings, the popsicle stick sculptures, the ceramic handprints and the drug store perfume that I have given my mother over the years and the joy and graciousness with which she received them.   I now realize that it was not the gift but the accompanying “I love you, Mom”, that held all the value.

In the comment section below, take a moment to declare to the world how important your mom has been to you and then send her the link to this page–a lanyard to connect your heart to hers.

by Dr. Brent

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Deb Cunningham

Brent and Josh,
What a wonderful way to pay tribute to your mother(s). My dear mother will be 91 on the 13th of May which is the day before Mother’s Day. She was just recently nominated as the Volunteer of the Month for our hometown of Beloit, WI. She has been volunteering for 30+ years at both the hospital and at a charitable agency and her church. She lives on two acres and maintains it all by herself. Still drives and visits her friends who are shut-ins. What keeps her going? She wants to be around people and not to become stagnant. My mom always said that she gets cheated out of gifts because her birthday is so close to Mother’s Day but I try to compensate for that by making it that much more special. She’s my best friend, I only hope that I can measure up to the gold standard that she’s set. BTW, she has two sisters, one is 96 and one is 95. Her name is, Laurena Wise, her address is: 4815 W. Spring Creek Road, Beloit, WI 53511. She was just thrilled that our State Representatives wrote her a letter to thank her for her dedication to volunteerism and what a difference she has made in the lives of others. It would be wonderful if you could send her something to make it just as special. She’s so deserving. I hope and pray that they nominate her to be the Volunteer of the Year.

God Bless you and your farm and your families.


Dearest Brent and Josh,

I decided to respond to this post as it seemed the most appropriate! You never know how much your mom means to you until you lose her! I lost mine 21 years ago and today I must let you know that Eileen lost her mom on Monday evening at 19h30. I am sorry that this is so impersonal but our e-mail is down and I can't find your telephone numbers. My cell is 083 253 4784. The private cremation is tomorrow at 11am and the memorial service on Saturday at 11am (South African Time)We can receive e-mail but can't send – I am technologically challenged but hope to sort that out soon!

Dave Roof

There are two types of people – those of you who's mothers are here… and those of us whose mothers have gone on.

Sarah Roundell

My mom is the mom all of the other kids want. She is supportive and encouraging, gives great advice, is proud of me even though I feel I haven't accomplished much, and when I act like a total a** she always forgives me. I couldn't get through one day without her and I wish her the best Mother's Day ever!

Happy Mother's Day to mom's everywhere. You are very special and we love you!

Betty Brown

I became a mom this year. And it tore open the swiss cheese holes in the relationship I have with my own Mother. We are just now mending. I had no idea how much you could possibly love your own child until I had one. I had no right to doubt her love of me. But being a mom is giving everything you have, without expectation of a thing. The receiving is in the witnessing.


The greatest lesson my mom taught me was a three-word sentence.

Time Changes Things.

And ironically, time never has changed the love my mom has for me. And for that I am thankful.


I forgot the rest of the post!

Below is a poem that Kate sent me, in celebration of Mother's Day.. the commercial holiday i now love to hate…. sometimes 12 years seems like 20, and other times it seems like last week. Thinking of you, my friends whose moms are only left in your hearts. thanks, kate…..


Sent your link to a friend this morning and this is how she responded in an email to several friends:

My mom and her best friend died 6 months apart. My mom died first. The funeral of her friend had 100's of the same people. It was like my mom's funeral all over again. People saw the pain in my eyes, as I sobbed miserably for both losses. They both had daughters who were the same age. As hard as they tried to connect us, Kate and I walked different paths as adolescents and through college. It was their deaths that brought us together, and now, 12 years later, we are the friends they always hoped we would be…

both Robin and I love, honor, and miss our moms.

Thanks for sharing the great poem.

Mary DuBois

She stayed up reading with a small light on till I came home.

She let me lick the bowl when we made brownies.

She shared her love of poetry with me.

She clapped for my living room performances.

She has become a cherished grandmother to my children.

She was the stay at home Mom all those years and celebrated when I chose to work.

She continues to love me to this day.


I have to add here that my MOM TWO is still alive, is 90 this year and took over when my own mother died ten years ago. She started signing all her letters Mama Too and really helped me to feel so much better. Aunt May never married and had children, but she helped raise me. She has always said, HAVE SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO!

I think it is her secret to happiness. She told me when it was my time to pass, she would be in my welcoming party! She would be the one with the tambourine! My goodness, I am so lucky to have had two mothers. I love reading all these comments. Bless you all.


When my middle son was born very very ill…my mom held my hand and told me things would be alright. She went on to explain that this was a gift and she would always be there. Twenty years later she is still by my side as I am raising a very beautiful disabled child. She has held my hand, wiped my tears and taught me the meaning of motherhood…I am forever blessed!

William Kipp

There are several mothers in my life that I could talk about. I'm going to compare them to Mother Teresa (hopefully she'll be sainted soon!). If my mothers didn't have the patience, kindness, care, and hope for me that Mother Teresa had for the world then I'd be lying six feet underground. Even if you disagree with your mother and never want to speak to her again just remember that she did birth you and cares more for you than your animosity ever will be. I say thank you to all the Mothers of the World and a Happy Mother's Day!!


My mother was so cheerful! You can't buy a cheerful mother from anywhere, not even Sears. She has to be given to you by God. Whenever she talked about my moving anywhere new and far away, say to San Francisco from Memphis, she would say, "Oh goody, I haven't been there!!! She would say, "Don't move anywhere I've already been!" When my second son told us he was gay, she said, Oh good, you be the best gay person you can be!" I lost her ten years ago, and miss her every single day. And yes, Mom, I always remember to take off my makeup every night and put on night cream!

( Mom, are you getting everybody in heaven to wear moisturizer?)

Linda Rodriguez

My mom was the "cool mom". all my friends and boyfriends were at ease with her, which gave me self esteem and a sense of security. It was my mom who would tell me to go buy a record and dance to it with my friends. Years after i graduated and moved away, old boyfriends still came to have have coffee with her. I always joked that the boys always had eyes for her and were waiting til i left to get time alone with "the cool mom".


My Mom taught me so much.

She taught me responsibility.

She taught me how to laugh at myself.

She taught me that when I need to cry, do so.

She taught me to be kind and loving.

She taught me to use my creativity to help not only myself, but others.

She taught me that beans were for planting or eating and not for sticking in my ear or up my nose.

She taught me to follow my dreams.

She taught me that being 'me' was more important than being what others want me to be.

She taught me compassion.

She taught me the importance of true friendships.

She taught me that respect for others is essential.

She taught me that each and every day needs to be met head on and not to shy away from the many challenges a day can bring.

She taught me to appreciate diversity.

She taught me that love isn't always easy but true love is unconditional.

She taught me so many lessons all that have shaped me into the person I am today. For all those lessons I'm forever grateful.