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Everything My Mother Taught Me

August 26, 2021 by Tara Woodard-Lehman
Tara Woodard-Lehman and her mother, Jan Woodard.


What mattered when my mother died? 

Pressing my warm lips on her cold forehead. 
Anointing her body with oil and tears. 
Propping pillows. 

Shifting her sick, beautiful body. 
Folding crisp, line-dried sheets 
around her soft, small shoulders. 

Tucking hand-stitched quilts around her swollen feet. 
Singing the song she sang to her babies 
while rocking them to sleep. 

What mattered when my mother died? 
Speaking words of release and surrender, 
Like holy incense burning and rising. 

What mattered when my mother died? 
What always matters. 

Every single breath. 
Even those labored and rattled.


Credit line to appear at end of poem: Copyright © 2020 by Tara Woodard-Lehman. All rights reserved. Used by permission. 

Tara Woodard-Lehman is the daughter of Jan Woodard, author of Texting Through Cancer: Ordinary Moments of Community, Love, and Healing. Tara is a writer, mother, salvage artist, and ordained Presbyterian USA minister. She is a contributor to the anthology Talking Taboo: American Christian Women Get Frank About Faith and has written several blogs for the Huffington Post. Tara and her family recently moved back to the States from a three-year stay in New Zealand.


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I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.” 

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