Wendell Berry’s Mother

To My Mother

by Wendell Berry

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I was your rebellious son,
do you remember? Sometimes
I wonder if you do remember,
so complete has your forgiveness been.

So complete has your forgiveness been
I wonder sometimes if it did not
precede my wrong, and I erred,
safe found, within your love,

prepared ahead of me, the way home,
or my bed at night, so that almost
I should forgive you, who perhaps
foresaw the worst that I might do,

and forgave before I could act,
causing me to smile now, looking back,
to see how paltry was my worst,
compared to your forgiveness of it

already given. And this, then,
is the vision of that Heaven of which
we have heard, where those who love
each other have forgiven each other,

where, for that, the leaves are green,
the light a music in the air,
and all is unentangled,
and all is undismayed. 

~     ~     ~

I received a keeper Mother’s Day card in the mail yesterday.  Here’s one sentence from it:

I honor you for the hard work, blood, sweat and tears

that you poured into me as a child and want you to know

that these have been small seeds planted in my life;

but they have reaped a bounty of blessings on me.

This same son wrote a Mother’s Day note when we had been reading Milton.  It began

To my precious,

I love you more than false Unas

or a damnéd sprite

a sentiment that made me laugh (you have to read the Faerie Queen to get it) and rejoice both.


10 thoughts on “Wendell Berry’s Mother

  1. I’m still gasping for air from the Berry poem. Or, perhaps, my lips are numb. I’m not sure which, but I’m rather undone by the whole affair. Unbelievable.Happy Mother’s Day, mentor and friend.LoveStephie

  2. Well, my daughters live close to me, but they’ve still mailed me Mother’s Day cards in the past…Grace, Audrey and I are going to Cheesecake Factory for lunch tomorrow. I have to go there at 9 A.M. to make a reservation (they don’t take them over the phone) so we can get seated at one of the tables Chrissie is serving at. Brianne is in Utah over the weekend….did you see my grad photos?

  3. p.s. Just a few minutes after I responded to your comment, I’m laughing to realize the difference between you having raised sons and me having raised daughters–we are both thinking to ourselves, “Isn’t it obvious?”

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