Still Learning To See

My mom

Tomorrow marks eight years since my mother died—her “last, great journey” as she called death. Just a month shy of 96 years old, she was born in China of missionary parents who, despite the image that may conjure up, were some of the finest people on the planet, and people who grounded my mother solidly in life. In the photograph above, enjoying her siblings who were still alive at the time, she was about the age I am now.

I may be odd, but I don’t miss her! Not because I wouldn’t love to give her a hug every single day but because she never feels far away. In an instant I can see her smile and hear her voice and often sense her warm presence. That said, I also love looking at this photograph of her and seeing again clearly that smiling face.


I owe so much of who I am to her. Seeing the world as a miraculously beautiful place—even including the mystery and the pain—comes straight from this woman who lovingly nurtured my learning to see the world on my own. She was proud of the fact that she had been an RN, was a mother to five of us, a loving wife to a man who at times could be quite trying and, if all that was not enough, she was also a citizen of the world in ways that inspire me still.

I don’t mean to idealize her. I love it that mom was so openly a human being who was still striving right up to when she was dying. I also know all mothers don’t live life as wonderfully as mine, though I strongly suspect, they are doing the best they are able—against immense odds.

What a privilege to have grown up in my family with this amazing woman constantly weaving us into this remarkable world which I’m still learning to see.


This entry was published on November 2, 2015 at 10:32 am. It’s filed under John Snell, John Snell Photographer and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

9 thoughts on “My mom

  1. Thanks for this post. It was wrote beautifully. My mother past 4 weeks ago and I’m just starting the process of life without her.

  2. Jeannie Lowell on said:

    John: My partner Michael’s mother was also born in China of missionary parents.- probably around the same time. I should connect the two of you to see if your respective parents (or grandparents, is more the case) might have known each other.

  3. A good Mother is such a good beginning! I had one just like that .. I’m very grateful as well.. We only can hope to be thought of as well by our children. Nice to hear your story of her..

    • Many thanks for your thoughts. Yes, even if I don’t always succeed, I’m trying my best to be that kind of parent. Interestingly, mom was still worrying about all five us the day she died!

  4. A “p.s.” To the last comment.. I read several of Pearl S. Buck’s books on being raised in China & the remarkable stories of things happening there at that time. The Good Earth, the Good Mother, & the Good Father..I loved them. Strong & memorable characters .. My favorite movie as a child was “the Inn of the 6th Happiness” with young Ingrid Bergman.. It still moves me just to think about it. Thanks again for this nice post.

  5. Deborah Leu on said:

    A beautiful photo and remembrance. Brings back wonderful memories of knowing your mom.

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