Brown Bags & A Mother’s Love

I was 22 years old, working two jobs to pay for seminary. Three mornings a week, I’d rise long before the sun to pack my books in the car and drive the 101 miles to classes. Before walking out the garage door, I’d open the fridge and find a brown bag lunch sitting on the top shelf.

Maybe it’s odd for a mother to pack her grown son’s lunch, but it was how my mom knew to show she loved me. She saw me hacking my way through a treacherous, dark season of the soul, and she didn’t know what to do. More complicated, I was changing, growing, entering a world she didn’t understand or always agree with—and she didn’t know how to be present with me there (what parent does?). She could sense how I felt very alone, unmoored, experiencing the isolation of not really fitting anywhere anymore. My mom, the woman who’d always fixed and mended and helped me maneuver life, had no idea how to help.

But you know what she could do? She could wrap pizza in aluminum foil or pile Parmesan crusted chicken in Tupperware. And after hours parsing Greek participles or poring over Augustine or Daniel, I’d open my brown bag. Often, tucked next to a ham sandwich or leftover meatloaf, I’d find a little note penned in her elegant cursive. One still sits in a box in my closet, a post-it size card bordered with lavender orchids. Do you think the Apostle Paul felt understood, she wrote, or like he fit in? I love you.

My mom didn’t know what to say, or what to do. She couldn’t fix anything. But she could reach out with her tangible brown-bag love. She could say, “I see you.” I can’t think of a better gift a parent can give.This picture was my last time to be with her. But her love remains with me. This fierce mother’s love that wrote notes and packed brown bags and tried her best to see.

6 Replies to “Brown Bags & A Mother’s Love”

  1. I wrote somewhere else that Your words always move me. I also wanted to add your mom looks so familiar to me??? No idea why? That said thank you for always taking your heart and conveying it to the world of people who are stumbling and reaching on this journey home. Bless you John RIP to your Momma

  2. On a lighter note: On our wedding day, when my husband and I were standing in the obligatory line meeting our guests (back in the ’70’s – do they even do that any more???) my mother-in-law came up to me and whispered in my ear “Now YOU can pack his lunches!”

  3. This is beautiful. I always loved your mom’s writing and I really enjoyed your description of it.

  4. This reminds me: of one grandmother’s love in particular that was downright vehement in its seemingly relentless and tireless nature. This kind of (pursuit?) changes you as you grow into confidence that it is always there, always with you.

    Its such an awareness, like you had with your mother, that lends credibility to the possibility that love never fails.

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