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

Reader Comments

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Doreen Novotny

She’s. Gone now and I don’t think I ever appreciated all she taught me and gave me. I miss her every day and often have”chats” with her so in a way she is still with me.

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Kathy Carpenter

She would rock me in the chair when I was sick she was my best friend we would always make chocolate chips together and as a teenager we would make sauce find the best tomatoes and put them in the blender and add all spices then to the pot hours after they would melt down and there we would put the sauce in freezer containers we would make jelly’s and we spent so much time in our kitchen together doing supper when my girls came along she would make those choc chips like history was repeating itself and my babies loved them. I would give my heart and soul just to talk with her for 5 minutes I lost her at the age of 51 she never smoked or drank but breast cancer wiped her away from me I was 22 she died here in the house in my arms my best friend and the best mother any girl could ever had !!!!!

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Kay Dee

My mother is gone. I miss her every single day. She taught me all the important things in life. To be kind. To be honest. That one’s word is the most valuable possession. That memories are the only true treasure we leave behind. That laughter is a beautiful, healing thing. She taught me that in love for a life partner, never waiver. That two people who love one another face hard things together, and stay together, working together, respecting one another, putting the other first, always. She taught me that kindness is secondary only to breathing. She loved parties and having friends and family (she had a HUGE family) to our home. She made sure that everyone had a wonderful time. I learned from her, as an adult, that her absolute immersion in the Christmas holiday season was to keep her children from realizing that Christmas (all of December, really) was very hard for her, and she actually dreaded the month. We never knew. So yes, lanyards (we called them boondoggles in the Adirondack camp where I learned to make them) impressions of my hand in plaster, statues of the Blessed Mother, rosaries from various places that I visited, cards, letters, my Mother kept them all. When she left, she took an irreplaceable part of me with her. I continue to strive to be a woman of her caliber.

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Bobbi Britton

My mother was the kind that packed me a lunch as she did for my sisters even though I wasn’t yet old enough to go to school as they did. She took me aside at my oldest sister’s birthday party and gave me the game prize even though I didn’t win but was upset I couldn’t blow up a balloon. My dad was working as an over the road truck driver leaving her alone to juggle 5 kids and figure out how to make ends meet on his salary. We thought pancakes for supper was a treat because she made it that way…we didn’t know there wasn’t anything else to eat. She made sure everything was ok no matter what. She showed me what a strong woman looked like and to be independent. She showed me compassion for others and love beyond measure. She mothered every kid that came through her door and a few needed to stay a while until they worked things out at their own house. And they were welcome. She loved my father even after his death until her own. And to this day I strive to make her proud of the woman she raised me to be. When she died, I lost two people, my mother and my friend. We were so lucky to have her for our mother.

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Hope Adams

My mama is the center of the world for me and my two sisters. We each are more like her than we would ever want to admit. This southern, traditional, high school dropout, beauty queen housewife, raised three fierce independent girls who grew up to be a college professor, social worker and police officer. We don’t always get along and argue way too much but I couldn’t imagine a day in which I didn’t speak to here. She is 76 now and still has her standing beauty appointment every Saturday. Of her three girls I’m the one who grew up to be the most different- I never married or had children, hate makeup and wear my hair in a ponytail 90% of the time, I’m a liberal feminist in constant conflict with her love of Fox News, yet I know without a doubt I am the one she confines in the most and that she is secretly proud that I took the path less likely. I am my mama’s daughter.

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JOAN LOUISE

IF THIS ISN’T THE TRUTH! WOW! WORDS ARE POWERFUL FOR SURE, MADE ME CRY AND REALISE HOW IMPORTANT MOMS ARE…I LOST MY ONLY CHILD BUT STILL I AM A MOM TO AN ANGEL SON…GOD BLESS YOU BRENT AND YOU MAMA! YOU ARE THE SPITTING IMAGE OF HER! I THANK GOD FOR MY MOM, AND HER CONTINUED HEALTH, SHE IS TURNING 87 IN DECEMBER. SHE IS ALL I HAVE. AND PRAYING THAT WE BOTH MAKE IT TO SHARON SPRINGS NEXT YEAR GOD WILLING TO THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY..FORGET ITALY, NEW YORK IS WHERE I’D RATHER BE…WITH YOU, JOSH,AND ALL LIVING THINGS ON THE BEEKMAN FARM…<3

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Eva Jones

My mother left us 22 days after a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. As she lay in the hospital, she said that if she had known this would be her fate, she would have treasured every day of her life. All I can say is that if I had known that would be her fate, I would have treasured her more, every day of my life. What I wouldn’t give to hug her one more time …

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Rayna

I pray everyday that the children who were raised by strong loving mothers know how lucky they are. That they let their moms know just how special they are, and how grateful they are for them!!! Not all of us were that lucky. I am a mother now, and hopefully a better mother then I knew. I used what I went through to become a loving, supportive Mom. 💜💜

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Beverly Cornelius

If I could talk to her again no words would pass between us….a hug that would say everything I could not and one that I dare not let go of….

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Katie

When I think of all the drawings and other childhood things we girls had made, found after our mother’s death, I realize that because those are what she’d saved, it’s what she treasured. I hope I was a good daughter. I hope I remembered to tell her how much she meant to me. I now have the same drawings, school photos and yes, I believe I have at least one lanyard, from my children.

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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.

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Karin

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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Will

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.

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Kate

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…..

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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.

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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.

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Phyllis

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.

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Dot

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!

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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!!

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Phyllis

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?)

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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".

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Kenn

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.

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