Giving Sons

Image of my mother with her loving son, Billy, on his wedding day.
Image of my mother with her loving son, Billy, on his wedding day. | Source

A Great Writer

For the first time in my life, I was at a loss for words. This is not an easy thing for a writer. In the past, the words just always seemed to flow. But circumstances were different now.

All the arrangements had been made. The music was selected. And the flowers had arrived. It was time to catch up on some much needed sleep, for tomorrow would be a hard day.

That night, my mother and I checked into a motel. After unpacking our bags, I fell right into bed, totally exhausted, and pulled the covers over my head. My mother lie on the edge of the bed, pillows propped up behind her back, with the night light on, scribbling her thoughts endlessly on paper.

"Mom, what are you writing? Are you going to bed soon?" I asked, half asleep.

"In a little while," she said, flipping another page.

Six or seven pages later, she was finished.

"Mom, what are you writing?" I asked again, poking my head out from beneath the covers.

"I'm writing your brother's eulogy," she replied.

"What? Mom, there's no way you're ever going to be able to read all of that tomorrow. You'll never make it through the first paragraph," I said.

"I can do it," she said. "A mother does what she has to do for her child."

God had taken my younger brother Billy in his sleep at the tender age of 32 for no apparent reason. But then again, it really doesn't matter. The end result is the same.


Searching for Answers

The mere thought of public speaking gives me anxiety attacks. I was panic stricken, knowing that if my mother couldn't finish the eulogy, then it would be up to me. So, the next day, I sat in the funeral parlor rehearsing her lines, knowing that at some point, I would have to pick up the standard. I asked God to give me strength and peace.

"There's no ending," I told Mom.

"I don't have an answer--yet," she replied.

"An answer to what?" I asked.

My mother turned and walked over to her son in the casket. She placed her hand gently on his arm and stood there for a long time as though she were having a private conversation with him. The two of them always were very close. Then she noticed a difference in his face. Something had changed. The smile that had been there for days was gone.

"He looked tired as if to say, 'Mom, it's time. It has been seven days now, and I'm tired. I must go.' Yet, it's hard to let go," she said.

I, too, had noticed the smile on my brother's face. It was as though he had been sent an angel to take him home. Someone he loved. Perhaps, his father, whom he hadn't seen since he was a little boy.

My mother kissed Billy on the forehead. Tears fell from her eyes. Then she walked towards me.

"I know the answer now," she said. "Everything's going to be OK."


Image of my mother hugging my brother, Billy, after he receives the rank of Eagle Scout.  Both my parents were scout leaders.  I also attained the rank of First Class.
Image of my mother hugging my brother, Billy, after he receives the rank of Eagle Scout. Both my parents were scout leaders. I also attained the rank of First Class. | Source

The Answer

After everyone was seated in the chapel, my mother took the podium and began to speak. I sat on the edge of my seat, ready to catch her should she falter.

"I'm doing this because I know that no one else can," she said, looking out amongst family and friends.

The room was so quiet you could almost hear her thoughts. Heads hung low in sorrow as they listened to the pain in her voice.

My mother spoke of life, love and values. She thanked family and friends for being there for her son--for guiding him in the best of times and the worst of times, at home and in his personal life, and at work.

She began: "When I received the phone call that my son had died, I screamed . . . and screamed . . . and life stopped totally for me. Just like you, I couldn't believe this was true. He was too young. It was supposed to be me, not my baby. I begged God to take me and give Billy back in exchange. I asked for mercy, for this not to be true and to let this be a bad dream. But it was not."

Even at my mother's weakest moment, there was strength in her voice. I sat in the front pew next to my sister-in-law, now my sister, with a box of tissues ready to burst.

My mother went on to tell the story of how the women in our family flew to Bermuda, where my brother was living to search for the truth--only to find that, yes, it was Billy.

She told of how he touched the lives of people there and here that he loved, protected and worked with, and spoke of his accomplishments. She described him as a man like his father, whose shoes would not be easily filled.

"Most of all, he was my devoted, loving son, who just called me Mommy, not Mother, just Mommy," she said.

With my hands clasped, I listened to the irony and beauty of her words. Before me stood a woman I admired, a woman of great inner strength, who at age 54 had buried two husbands and now two sons. But most of all, I saw for the first time a great writer, one who had written and delivered a speech that would forever be instilled in the hearts and minds of those in attendence. I was so proud of my mother.

I sat patiently waiting for the grand finale, the clincher, the ending of the story that would offer an explanation for my brother's sudden death. After all, mothers are supposed to know the anwers to everything. I knew she wouldn't let me down.

Then came the punch line that would give us all closure . . .

"Today, as I looked at Billy, I asked God, 'Why did you take my son?" She said. "His answer was 'I gave you mine, can I not have yours?"

First published in the GettysburgTimes in 2001


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Comments 13 comments

tnderhrt23 profile image

tnderhrt23 5 years ago

This is a gripping, emotional read. Well done and I offer my condolences, and prayers.


Debra Charney profile image

Debra Charney 5 years ago from United States Author

Thank you. It was a tough subject to write about, but sometimes, the best stories are those written from the heart.


moonlake profile image

moonlake 5 years ago from America

My deepest sypmthy for the loss of your brother. We almost lost our baby boy 28 at the time I know how terrible it can be. How brave of your mother to be able to talk about her beloved son I could not have done that. When our son was dying I was trying to figure out how I was even going to pick out his casket.


Sinea Pies profile image

Sinea Pies 5 years ago from Northeastern United States

What a testimony to the love of your mom and the strength that God can give when we need it most. Voted up and beautiful.


mikeq107 5 years ago

Great hub and so sorry to read of your loss....Honestly felt like I was there well written.

Loss is hard but knowing he is with God makes it a little easier.

Mike :0)

Voted up and shared with followers!!!!


Debra Charney profile image

Debra Charney 5 years ago from United States Author

Thank you. And I hope your son is doing well. God always blesses us with inner strength when we need it the most.


Debra Charney profile image

Debra Charney 5 years ago from United States Author

Thank you both, Sinea and Mike, for voting up and sharing with followers.


catydid52 profile image

catydid52 5 years ago from Windsor

Beautifully written, moving and encouraging for those left behind who one day find eternity facing us - your brother is with the Lord. Your mother is an incredible woman, and mother.


Debra Charney profile image

Debra Charney 5 years ago from United States Author

Thank you, Caty. And yes, my mother is an incredible woman. She has been a positive role model in all aspects of my life.


glassvisage profile image

glassvisage 5 years ago from Northern California

Thank you so much for sharing this Hub. I appreciate the photos because when I hear of a person's passing, it is comforting to learn more about them and what they have done and enjoyed in their lives. The best to your mother, to you and your family. You are certainly a beautiful writer.


Debra Charney profile image

Debra Charney 5 years ago from United States Author

Thanks. Unfortunately, I don't have very many good photos to post with my stories because we had a house fire a few years after my father died. Plus, my brother died fairly young, so photos are very precious to me. That is also why I write so many personal narratives. I love preserving all those wonderful memories. It keeps them forever alive in my heart, soul and mind.


Lucky Cats profile image

Lucky Cats 5 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

Oh My God, Debra. How achingly beautiful are these words. I am floored, truly! So very sorry that you lost your brother...Such a young age he was, and you, as well...to have to endure this. Your mother...a saint. This is a loving and heartfelt tribute to both your brother and your mother. Just wonderful, even in the sadness. Thank you, Debra.

B,A,U


Debra Charney profile image

Debra Charney 5 years ago from United States Author

Lucky Cats:

Thank you, so much for your kind words. I have endured many loses in my life. My mother and my son are the last of my immediate family members. Perhaps, that is why I love to write first person narratives that recollect years gone by. It is a way of paying tribute to all the people that were a significant part of my life.

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